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General Mills Utilizes SDGs as ‘Common Language’ for Global Sustainability Initiatives

By 3p Contributor
Sustainable Development Goals


By Samuel Northrup

As one of the world’s largest makers of food, General Mills has embraced its role as a global leader in safeguarding human health and the environment.

To better convey its plans and objectives to the world, the Minnesota-based corporation, which produces and markets over 100 brands across more than 100 countries, has aligned itself with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)since their ratification. The SDGs, drafted in 2016, are a set of 17 global goals and 169 targets developed to help stakeholders to push the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“We really see the SDGs as providing an important global framework to create alignment and communicate on sustainability imperatives,” said Serena Pal, General Mills’ manager of reporting, rating and rankings. “We feel like each company’s approach can be a little different, and it really depends on where you are in your sustainability journey.”

Of the 17 global goals established by the U.N., General Mills has focused in on five: SDG 2, Zero Hunger; SDG 3, Good Health and Well-Being; SDG 6, Clean Water and Sanitation; SDG 13, Climate Action; and SDG 15, Life on Land. Speaking during last week’s 3BL webinar titled “General Mills' Sustainability Journey and SDGs: Connecting the Dots,”Pal explained that these five goals aligned well with existing sustainability initiatives that the corporation had started years before.

Since 2016, General Mills has furthered these initiatives by setting ambitious environmental goals, such as sustainably sourcing its top-10 ingredients by 2020, reducing GHG emissions up to 72 percent by 2050, and developing a water stewardship programwith local partners in eight “priority watersheds,” according to the company’s 2018 global responsibility report.

“As a global food company, we know that water is essential for agriculture, which we are dependent on, as well as our operation,” Pal explained. “So we have worked to create a global water stewardship plan that focuses on water usage from shed all the way to production, identifying ways to increase efficiency and conservation and continually improve our performance to enhance resiliency.”

But General Mills has not stopped there -- the company has begun incorporating work with the SDGs as part of its Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) index, including them in its 2018 responsibility report.

“We know that changes in climate affect global food security but also impact, as a food company, our raw material supply,” Pal said. “Ultimately, this influences our ability to deliver products to consumers and operate as a company.”

Connecting SDGs with the GRI framework has allowed for further streamlined disclosure of standards and practices for a corporation operating and contributing on a global scale.

“All of this is to say we really use these SDGs as a way to talk about these platforms that we are already very engaged in, and giving us that common language with which we can engage partners and governments and communities with,” Pal said.

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