Environmental goals: General Mills does a Reality Check

  • Date: November 29, 2010
  • Source: Admin
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General Mills set for itself new five-year environmental goals recently.   The goals are meant to make its operations more efficient by 2015. The firm desires to bring down greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent. It will bring down consumption of water and energy too –by 20 percent in each case. By 2015, it intends to bring down solid waste generation by 50 percent. Normalized per metric ton of the product, these efficiency goals imply that the firm can consume more energy and water in absolute terms even as they help the firm achieve its goals. 
Reality Check
But going by the firm’s performance vis-à-vis its previous five-year goals, bringing down energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions may prove over-ambitious for the manufacturer of products like Cheerios, Chex and Betty Crocker.
General Mills and Its Recent Initiatives toward Environment Conservation
By the end of fiscal 2010, General Mills had curtailed its energy consumption by 6 percent, lower than 50 percent of its 2005 goal of bringing down its energy consumption by 15 percent. The firm also brought down greenhouse gas emissions - by 8 percent, against the targeted 15 percent. It did not achieve waste and water targets too. The firm’s Chief Sustainability Officer Jerry Lynch acknowledged as much in a statement issued Friday. He admitted that the 2005 goals were aggressive and his firm did not achieve all of them. But the firm’s progress had been substantial. The firm was raising the bar. It was learning and honing its capabilities in the area all the time. The firm wanted to define goals that would stretch it enough. 
General Mills and Corporate Social Responsibility
In the 2010 Corporate Social Responsibility Report it placed in the public domain earlier this year, the firm explained the challenges it faced in achieving the energy and greenhouse gas targets. An altered product mix had complicated its goal: bringing down the sale of flour and raising the sale of processed food cereals had necessitated a higher level of energy-intensive production given that cereals were cooked or toasted. Also given that cereal is not as dense as flour, a higher level of cereal sales skews the weight-based normalized metric.
Sustainable Palm Oil Commitment
Lynch sounded optimistic all the same – the momentum favored the firm. Energy efficiency gains were mostly achieved in the last two years. In September, the firm made a sustainable palm oil commitment. It has resolved to buy palm oil only from sustainable sources by 2015. In September, it also resolved to discontinue the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in the packaging of its organic Muri Glen tomato cans. 
A forum for good agricultural practice guidelines was put in place in 2004 by the palm oil industry and WWF, the conservation organization. Called the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), it has two mechanisms, viz., code of conduct and  certification framework, to ensure that its 370 plus members live up to their commitments.


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