General Mills Holds Its Nose, Leaps into Climate Change


General Mills, the maker of Cheerios and other such consumer goods, took a bold step into the CSR pool this week by announcing that it would make changes to its agricultural practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously mounting related advocacy efforts designed to affect public policy.

What does this mean? From the company’s post on the matter yesterday:

“Nearly 2/3 of the GHG emissions and 99 percent of water use throughout our value chain occur upstream of our direct operations in agriculture, ingredients and packaging”

So they’re insisting that their suppliers get on board by reducing those emissions and “achiev[ing] zero net deforestation in high-risk supply chains by 2020″…or else. We assume.

The idea is that, by creating these incentives for major suppliers to clean up their acts, GM will have a more dramatic effect on such practices around the globe. The GM post (and this one from its EVP of supply chain operations) are worth a read, but here’s a nice vague money quote:

“The imperative is clear: business, together with governments, NGOs and individuals, need to act together to reduce the human impact on climate change. Government policies that provide proportionate and clear guidance on mitigation and adaptation are essential for large scale progress.”

The Guardian implies that the shift came about thanks to Oxfam America’s “Behind the Brands” campaign, which inspired 236,000 emails urging top producers like GM and Kellogg to adjust their policies. Oxfam praised GM accordingly, calling it “the first major food and beverage company to promise to implement long-term science-based targets”, but we feel like such a decision just makes good business sense in a world soon to witness the effects of its own limited resources more acutely.

Despite the political “debate” on climate change that continues in this country, we have a feeling the matter will progress in the same way as same-sex marriage: sooner rather than later, the brands that choose not to take a supportive stance will earn more ink than those that do.

Call it a hunch.