Behind the Brands campaign makes waves as General Mills pledges climate action

General Mills pledges climate action

General Mills, the company behind Cheerios, has pledged industry leading action to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Creative Commons: Michael Himbeault, 2010

In the first major success for Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign, food and beverage company General Mills today promised to implement industry-leading measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chains.

The announcement comes two months after the launch of the Oxfam campaign, which urged such companies to implement strong measures to curb carbon emissions and limit climate change.

The campaign saw over 230,000 people sign a petition calling on General Mills to take action.

With worldwide revenues of $17.9 million, General Mills makes and sells food under brand names such as Cheerios, Green Giant, Nature Valley and Betty Crocker.

It is one of the world’s ten biggest food and beverage companies – which Oxfam says are collectively responsible for enough greenhouse gas emissions that if they were a country, they would rank 25th most polluting globally.

Today’s announcement makes General Mills the first to promise long-term science-based targets to cut emissions in line with the globally agreed goal of limiting temperature rise to below 2°C.

Monique van Zijl, campaign manager for Oxfam’s Behind the Brands said:

Today General Mills has taken a bold step to be an industry leader in addressing the clear and present threat climate change poses to our food system. Rather than stand quietly as increasingly dangerous conditions undermine its business and the food we all eat, General Mills aims to be part of the solution. Political leaders and others in the industry should take note.

While most companies focus their sustainability work on their own factories and offices, Oxfam is praising General Mills’ commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions upstream of its own direct operations.

This includes focusing on agricultural production, responsible for around 92% of the company’s value chain climate pollution and could put pressure on big commodity producers, including Cargill and ADM, to also reduce their impact.

General Mills also announced it had signed-on to the Climate Declaration, and said it will join the likes of Nike, Starbucks, Timberland and Unilever in BICEP (Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy), a climate-action lobbying project by the advocacy group Ceres.

Today’s industry leading announcement follows months of intense pressure, as hundreds of thousands of people backed Oxfam’s Behind the Brands campaign.

Van Zijl said:

This would not have happened without the remarkable outpouring of public action from individuals who are fed up with the lack of effort to address climate change from too many food companies and governments. It’s further evidence that consumers can really change how companies operate if they raise their voice.

Oxfam will now be scaling up the pressure on other big food and beverage companies, most notably General Mills’ cereal-aisle rival, Kellogg’s, to follow suit in committing to firm and far reaching climate commitments.

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