General Mills goes against the grain with traditional farming methods to fight climate change
- In an effort to fight climate change and create a sustainable future for the food industry, General Mills is looking back to age-old methods of farming, according to Fortune.
- Specifically, the 152-year-old CPG company will work toward incorporating more organic acreage and working with perennial grains, cover crops and pollinator habitats, which are all naturally regenerative practices.
- “If we mean to stay in the food business at General Mills, then this problem that we’re facing, that we have been a participant in we realize now, we have to make positive contributions,” said Carla Vernón, president of General Mills natural and organic operating unit at Fortune Global Forum.
Sustainability is no longer a luxury. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report earlier this month saying that food supply for people and animals across the globe face serious threats from rising temperatures.
However, to keep temperatures from rising to dangerous levels — more than a total of 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the report — net emissions of carbon dioxide need to drop 45% by 2030 and hit net zero by 2050.
In order to do this, manufacturing and agricultural practices have to change. The biggest shifts need to come in the United States, which is responsible for nearly a third of the excess CO2 already in the atmosphere — despite having only about 4% of the world's population.
At the same time, environmental concerns are not the only driver to adopt environmentally friendly practices. There is also financial motivation. According to Nielsen, 66% of all consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable brands. This figure is even higher for millennials (73%) and Generation Z (72%).
Already, many companies have boarded the sustainability train. PepsiCo, General Mills and Nestlé have all committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Still, food companies are often criticized for not doing enough. With pressures on food supply looming, both consumers and companies like General Mills are taking humanity’s precarious position to heart.
Although many companies believe the future of food security and sustainability lies in forward-thinking technology, General Mills sees things a little differently. New is old again. As General Mills mines past practices for ideas, the company considers itself to be innovating, Vernón said at the forum.
Reaching back through the years for ideas doesn’t mean that the CPG giant isn’t forward thinking in its implementation. General Mills may be able to marry the past and present by implementing old methods in the ground, but using the aid of big data and satellite imagery to help improve its efforts.
General Mills isn’t the only food manufacturer to improve the sustainability of its agriculture. Tyson Foods said it will improve environmental practices on 2 million acres of corn by the end of 2020. Perdue Farms also announced sustainability goals for 2022, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% and potable water use by 25%.
In the very near future, it should not be surprising to hear more sustainability pledges from companies in all sectors. After all, it’s a practice that’s good for both the environment and a corporation’s bottom line.