General Mills Announces New Water Conservation Efforts

cerealGeneral Mills Chairman and CEO Ken Powell declared the company’s commitment to water conservation at the the Nature Conservancy (TNC) Global Water Summit in Chicago last week. Powell talked about the company’s efforts of “uber-collaboration” with stakeholders to improve watersheds around the world.  General Mills aims to preserve freshwater supplies in particular.

“As a food company, food security is important to us, and we’re tied tightly to nature,” said Powell in a statement. “We know that without healthy water for land, ecosystems and wildlife, agriculture simply does not work. Businesses languish. Economies falter. People suffer.”

General Mills released a new water policy last week, which includes the company’s direct operations and its suppliers. It is committed to ensuring that its direct operations don’t “encroach on the human right to water and sanitation in the communities in which we operate,” according to the policy. To accomplish this, the company is setting targets for wastewater discharge, and if needed it will treat its wastewater internally before releasing it to the environment. It is committed to engaging its suppliers when it comes to water stewardship to “set clear expectations” for them to comply with all environmental laws and provide a safe and healthy workplace for their employees.

Powell also announced that General Mills signed The CEO Water Mandate, launched in 2007 by the United Nations. A public-private initiative, it assists companies in the development, implementation and disclosure of sustainable water policies and practices. Endorsers recognize that they a responsibility to make managing water resources a priority. They also recognize that they can contribute to the U.N. Global Compact’s vision and realization of the Millennium Development Goals.

Water resources management is not new for General Mills. It has been working with TNC since 2010, and through its partnership with the organization it has established a global water risk assessment of all of its growing regions and plants. Earlier this year, the company joined the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) as a founding partner. AWS is a multi-stakeholder organization dedicated to water conservation. It helps members engage key stakeholders within their supply chains and watersheds.

Water conservation is equally important

Water reduction is also important to General Mills, and water reduction efforts are detailed in its Global Responsibility Report 2014. This includes specific examples such as installing recirculation valves at its plant in Murfreesboro, Tennessee last year, which saves over 375,000 cubic meters of water annually. Another example is the replacement last year of a water cooling system in its Häagen-Dazs location in Arras, France with a new chilling system. The system saves between 750 and 1,500 cubic meters of water a year.

Image credit: General Mills

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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