GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. (WCCO) — A Twin Cities food giant is attracting world attention not for what it puts on tables, but into the air.

Golden Valley-based General Mills is making a pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions by nearly a third over the next 10 years.
The company plans to invest more than $100 million in energy efficiency from farm to fork to landfill.

Other food companies have set more modest emissions goals, but none is targeting cuts across the entire food chain.

General Mills CEO Ken Powell made the surprise announcement saying the company has been around nearly 150 years and wants to be in business for another 150 years.

As one of the world’s largest food companies, General Mills has obvious clout in the marketplace. Now, it’s using that leadership position to take action on global climate change.

“It hasn’t caused us to not be able to source our ingredients and materials, but it’s making it much more precarious,” said the company’s Executive V.P. of Global Supply Chain, John Church.

Wild swings in the world’s climate are not conducive to a stable supply of all the raw ingredients a company like General Mills depends on.

“There are some parts of the world that are really, really important, and they’re awfully vulnerable,” Church said.

For instance, two African countries grow 70 percent of the entire cocoa supply. The serious drought in California, the nation’s leading produce and almond producer, is an obvious concern.

Remaining one of the world’s food leaders depends on a stable environment in which to grow grains and raise livestock. For that reason, General Mills will slash its greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent by 2025.

“It actually starts with the seed manufacturers and fertilizer manufacturers and insures that we’re working on what’s right for the economy and the earth to sustain that economy in an ongoing basis,” Church said.

Getting there means using cleaner energy on the farm and in the factory. That includes using technologies that grow grains with less fertilizer and water, as well as packaging products more efficiently.

“As an agricultural company, they’re seeing it maybe earlier than other companies are in their bottom line,” said Holly Lahd with Fresh Energy.

Environmental advocacy groups like Fresh Energy hope General Mills’ ambitious goal prompts other corporations to make similar moves.

“We know of other Minnesota Fortune 500 companies that are looking at their supply chain of greenhouse gas emissions,” Lahd said. “So once you measure it the next step is to manage it and make a public leadership goal as General Mills has.”

Bill Hudson

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