At General Mills, our business is rooted in the earth and has the power to help restore it. Threats to natural resources impact our business, the livelihoods of farmers and communities, and our ability to feed a growing population. To drive growth and increase resilience we need to not only focus on sustaining our planet but work toward regenerating it.
While we must focus on deforestation free ingredient streams in the near term, this is nested in a larger strategy that works towards the acceleration of regenerative systems (life, land, and animals) to resource transformational and systemic change.
Due to the challenges posed by key agricultural commodities such as palm oil and cocoa coupled with our scale and position in the supply chain, we recognize that moving to a regenerative approach is complex and will take time, as well as engagement with partners. Our aim is to contribute to a regenerative supply chain for these materials by 2030.
Within tropical forests, the regenerative approach brings focus to farmers, forests, and soil by looking at holistic systems to examine both planetary and community health within a particular landscape. This approach encourages inclusion of mixed agroforestry, creating poly culture and biomimicry, which enhances soil quality, manages water retention, and allows for increased carbon sequestration within the forest. The regenerative approach also encourages capacity building activities within local communities to focus on small holder training on forest practices, economic resilience, and social inclusion training to regenerate livelihoods.
General Mills' approach to Deforestation
We regularly review our global sourcing footprint and have focused effort on those commodities at high risk of driving deforestation, and where in partnership with our suppliers or through coalitions or landscape engagements we can drive impactful change.
For General Mills, these are Palm Oil, Cocoa and Fiber packaging. Within these categories, we employ a combination of approaches designed to help us achieve our sourcing goals and drive requirements to our upstream supply base. This includes:
- Inclusion of Agroforestry, biodiversity and livelihood improvement education and investment.
- Certification such as Roundtable for Sustainable Palm (RSPO) or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
- Supply chain mapping with visibility of source materials to mill level or plot/plantation, where possible.
- Landscape level or origin direct investment in partnership with suppliers, NGO’s, or coalitions, or on our own.
- Leveraging upstream suppliers and traders to evaluate and advance policy compliance.
- Coalition collaboration and engagement.
General Mills is a relatively small buyer of palm oil, using less than 0.5% of global palm oil supply in products like baking mixes, biscuits, and snack products. Despite the size of our purchase, we recognize that our purchasing practices towards deforestation free palm oil can positively impact ecosystems as well as drive progress towards our science based GHG emissions reduction to Scope 3.
We source palm oil only from suppliers whose supply chains meet the following principles:
- Only legal sources.
- No development of High Conservation Value (HCV) areas and/or High Carbon Stock (HCS) forests.
- No development on peat lands regardless of depth and use of best management practices for existing plantations on peat.
- No burning for new planting or replanting preparation.
- Progressive reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.
- Traceability to the extraction mill and as possible, extending traceability to the plantation.
- At minimum, annual progress reporting to demonstrate how these requirements are being implemented.
To help ensure our palm oil purchases do not contribute to deforestation of the world’s rainforests or negatively impact the communities and habitats that depend on them, we have sourced 100 percent of our palm oil as RSPO certified sustainable since 2015; in 2020 we achieved 99% of volumes as physically certified.
To build further alignment towards no deforestation, we expect suppliers to maintain public No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation (NDPE) policy aligned with our sourcing expectations, and to cover all oil palm concessions in our supply base with deforestation monitoring systems and/or commitments to jointly develop those systems. We similarly require that all upstream suppliers make deforestation monitoring a requirement of trade, in line with our engagement with the Consumer Goods Forum Forest Positive Coalition of Action. As of December 2020, 97% of our supplier volumes were covered by NDPE policy, and 7/8 of our direct suppliers (representing 89% of our volumes) had confirmed deforestation monitoring systems in place.
Critically, General Mills is now more actively engaging its suppliers in direct review of their palm oil production and sourcing practices, moving to traceability to mill, and evolving where possible to plantation. We work closely with our supplier partners and partners like Proforest to build sustainability performance, and compliance with our policy commitments, through active scorecarding, conversations, and collaboration. Our Statement on Palm Oil Sourcing lays out further principles we expect of direct suppliers, to ensure that they are in line with industry best practices.
Our approach, as well as the industry approach to responsible palm oil is continually evolving and we are committed to working with our peers, competitors, and partners to support the development a forest positive palm oil supply chain.
Other key ingredients:
On cocoa, over 90% of our supply comes from West Africa and 96% of our global supply comes from three key suppliers – Barry Callebaut, Cargill, and Olam. We work closely with NGO and supplier partners on the ground in Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire and invest to scale sustainable sourcing programs with a focus on strengthening smallholder farmer livelihoods, empowering women, and improving ingredient quality. In 2020, over 90% of our cocoa volumes were covered by these programs.
Additionally, in March 2017, we signed on to the World Cocoa Foundation’s Cocoa and Forests Initiative (CFI) to combat deforestation in key cocoa growing regions and drive progress towards our science based GHG emissions reduction goal out to Scope 3. Through this initiative we have worked closely with suppliers, stakeholders and Proforest to identify strategic actions to protect and restore forests, increase sustainable production, and promote social and community engagement.
As one of only two CFI signatories in the non-confectionary manufacturing space, we are proud of plans to deepen our investment at origin to expand impact and address deforestation. Additionally, we work with suppliers who plan to leverage full traceability – planned for 2022 – to address deforestation risks within their supply chains. Today, we are proud that 68% of our Cote d’Ivoire volumes and 72% of our Ghana cocoa volumes are fully traceable to the plot they are grown on, and not linked to deforestation.
Our CFI action plans for Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire can be viewed here. As we continue our work with CFI in our key cocoa sourcing regions in West Africa, we will leverage learnings to inform approach and strategy to achieve deforestation free cocoa for the rest of our sourcing origins.
In line with our 2020 sustainability goals, for fiber packaging, General Mills sources 100 percent from recycled material or from virgin wood fiber regions where there is demonstrably low risk of any deforestation. In 2020, 99% of our fiber packaging supply is considered at low risk of contributing to global deforestation because the packaging uses either recycled materials or virgin fiber that is sourced from regions where deforestation is not occurring.
The remaining 1% is sourced from countries considered at high risk, particularly China. We’ve assessed suppliers in China to better understand certifications in use. Beginning in 2018, our fiber purchased from China is only sourced from suppliers that have Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Mix certification or better, which will be maintained.
For other commodities often associated with deforestation such as soy, meat and dairy, our exposure to regions at high risk of deforestation are minimal.
While we operate businesses around the globe, most of our ingredients support our North American and European operations where we work with local suppliers, farmers and ranchers and have zero risk of deforestation.
For soy, over 99% of our purchases are sourced from North American origins that pose no risk for deforestation. Soy products for animal feed are purchased almost exclusively from U.S. and/or other origins with minimal to zero deforestation risk.
We are not a significant player in meat procurement globally. Meat for our North American businesses is procured from domestic sources. Our meat buy that comes from the Latin American region is approximately 0.1% of our worldwide meat spend.
Our dairy volume is represented by fluid milk or milk derived product sourced from local dairies in the US, Canada, and the EU with zero risk of deforestation. Furthermore, our exposure to dairy products originating from Latin America and Asia is under .05% of global volume.