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Kellogg's Commits to Sustainable Agriculture and Water Stewardship

Words by Leon Kaye

Kellogg's released its annual corporate responsibility report to coincide with Earth Day. The iconic breakfast foods giant boasting a brand portfolio with which many of us have grown up is moving towards a more sustainable business model. While the company has a long haul ahead, improved farming methods and reduced water consumption are among key goals for the company this decade.

The change in Kellogg's business practices are a reflection of consumers' growing awareness about how their food is made and where it is sourced. To that end, the company is balancing the needs of the market with the concerns of its stakeholders. Overall Kellogg's is improving its performance on several fronts, ahead on some and behind on others.

Sustainable farming is a high priority on Kellogg's sustainability agenda. The company is the largest customer for Louisiana's rice farmers and now Kellogg's is working to ensure a sustainable supply for the long term. Partnering with Louisiana State University and Louisiana Rice Mill, Kellogg's works with farmers to boost their financial bottom line and address problems including water conservation, methane emissions and water quality as a result of excessive runoff. The result is a Rice Master Grower program that promotes best practices and helps to green Kellogg's supply chain.

Across the pond, Kellogg's will start to use only sustainably grown palm oil in Europe. In the meantime the breakfast giant is investing in Green Palm sustainable palm oil certificates to encourage the expansion of more responsible palm oil farms. The challenge Kellogg's faces is to address the growing concern, even outcry, against destructive agricultural practices that has spooked many companies into ensuring their ingredients are environmentally sound. With this year's acquisition of the Pringles brand from Procter and Gamble, Kellogg's faces growing urgency as more consumers shy away from products containing palm oil if they cannot verify the source.

As is the case with food processing and beverage companies, water has a huge impact on Kellogg's business performance. With the percentage of water that ends up in food products only a slim percentage of the company's overall water consumption, Kellogg's is taking steps towards more responsible water stewardship. One of its processing plants in Omaha, Nebraska reduced its overall water consumption by 24 percent last year. Another facility in Mexico is combining water efficiency with clean energy as solar power heats hot water for the factory's boilers. And meanwhile Kellogg's is committed to transparency with reporting its data to the Water Disclosure Program.

So you can feel better about eating those Frosted Flakes and Rice Krispies in the morning: in fact you should, as Kellogg's makes it very clear that a solid breakfast is the way to start the day. Speaking of a good start, the beacon of Battle Creek is quite frank about its overall performance. While the company is head of its greenhouse gas emission and water reduction goals, it has fallen behind on waste diversion and energy consumption targets. Nevertheless the company behind many children's, and adults', breakfast of choice is a solid case study of the challenges and successes businesses find when they take corporate responsibility more seriously.

For every reader who peruses through the report and provides feedback, the company will donate $5 to the Global Foodbanking Network.

Leon Kaye, based in California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of GreenGoPost.com. He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business and Inhabitat. You can follow him on Twitter.

Photo courtesy Kellogg's.

Leon Kaye headshotLeon Kaye

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

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