General Mills Sustainability Report: Beats Packaging Goal Three Years Early
General Mills met its 2015 packaging volume goal three years early, selling 52 percent of its product volume in packaging that it improved since fiscal 2009, according to the company’s 2013 Global Responsibility Report. The goal was for a 40 percent improvement.
Qualifying improvements under the goal include packaging weight, recycled content and recyclability, renewable and compostable content and truckload efficiency. The company says it achieved the vast majority of the improvements through weight reduction. In 2012, it introduced a new, 18 percent lighter Yoplait cup, saving 3,600 metric tons of plastic a year.
General Mills has now set a new goal of a 60 percent improvement by 2015, from the 2009 baseline.
In 2015, General Mills says it improved on all environmental metrics except water usage.
The company says it aligned its 2013 report with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) framework, though it has not declared an application level.
The firm – whose products include foods under the Haagen-Dazs, Yoplait, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury and Green Giant brands – had worldwide sales of $16.7 billion in fiscal 2012.
General Mills has reduced its energy intensity by 2.7 percent over 2011 levels, to 514 kilowatt-hours per metric ton of product – a decrease of 11 percent from FY2005. The company is aiming for a 20 percent reduction by 2015. It used 2.4 billion kilowatt hours of energy in its wholly owned production facilities in 2012. Main sources of energy included natural gas (54 percent) and electricity (45 percent).
In the US, General Mills says it is using a new process to drive energy efficiency in its Big G cereal sites, which account for more than 40 percent of its global energy use. In 2012 it added dedicated, energy-focused engineers at each of its Big G cereal production facilities and started to systematically analyze energy use at each plant and develop improvement plans. The company has piloted the approach at seven sites, and in fiscal 2013 will roll it out across other divisions. Participating sites improved their average annual energy use reduction rate, per pound of production, from 1.4 percent to 8 percent during the first six months of the initiative (May-November 2012).
During 2012, fuel usage per metric ton of product, for outbound product transport in the US, decreased by 2 percent to reach a 17 percent fuel reduction versus 2009. The company is aiming for a 35 percent cut, versus the 2009 baseline, by 2015.
The reduction was largely due to increased efficiency in transportation planning and increased regional distribution, shipment loading practices, and delivery methods, the company says. Its approach includes improved logistics planning, modal shifts to less-impactful forms of transport (such as truck to rail), loading using slip sheets, and pallet reduction.
In 2012 General Mills cut relative GHG emissions by 1.5 percent from 2011 levels, to 0.2 metric tons CO2e per metric ton of product. This was 10 percent below FY2005 levels, putting it behind the curve on its target of a 20 percent reduction by FY2015. During fiscal 2012, the business generated 936,000 metric tons of CO2e in its wholly owned production facilities, including 242,000 metric tons of Scope 1 and 694,000 metric tons of Scope 2 emissions.
General Mills’ water usage rate, in cubic meters per metric ton of product, worsened last year. In FY2012 water usage was 10 percent below FY2006 levels, from 11 percent in FY2011, and off the company’s target of a 20 percent improvement by FY2015. The company blames this on product volume and mix factors.
On an absolute basis, in 2012 the company used 10 million cubic meters of water in its wholly owned production facilities, 2.9 percent less than in 2011. Eighty-two percent of total usage was from municipal sources, and the other 18 percent was groundwater.
The company cut its waste generation rate by 7.6 percent in 2012, to 0.034 metric tons of waste per metric ton of product. This figure is 40 percent below its 2005 rate, putting the company on target to achieve a 50 percent reduction by 2015.
During 2012, General Mills generated 159,000 metric tons of solid waste in its wholly owned production facilities, and diverted about 84 percent of waste from landfills.
In fiscal 2012, General Mills worked with Trucost to study its environmental dependence on natural resources across the value chain – including agriculture, ingredient production, packaging supply chain, product production, distribution and consumer use. It found that nearly two-thirds of GHG emissions and 99 percent of water use occurs upstream from General Mills’ operations, primarily in agriculture and in the preparation of the ingredients.
General Mills is using a Supplier Sustainability Scorecard to track its portion of each supplier’s energy, water, waste and GHG emissions – metrics it has tracked since 2005 in its own operations.
Last year it deployed the scorecard to its top 100 US suppliers in four main categories – commodities, ingredients, packaging and external supply chain – and 80 percent responded. It now has baseline data for each of these suppliers, and plans to collaborate with them to achieve reductions in energy, water, solid waste and GHG emissions.
Last year the company also launched a global water stewardship strategy in partnership with The Nature Conservancy.
In fiscal 2013, General Mills launched the supplier scorecard with its top 15 European suppliers to capture the same baseline data as in the United States.
The company says it has made progress against strategies on 10 priority agricultural raw materials, representing more than 50 percent of its annual purchases. It says it is purchasing “sizeable” quantities of certified sustainable palm oil, moving towards its 2015 goal of 100 percent responsible and sustainable sourcing, and expects that by the end of fiscal 2013, 50 percent of its global portfolio will be using sustainably sourced palm oil. General Mills buys palm oil only from RSPO members, with preference for purchasing RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil.
The company says it is a relatively minor user of palm oil, but that responsible users of even small amounts of raw materials can impact issues via principled purchasing practices.
In 2013, General Mills expects to source 100 percent free-range eggs for all Häagen-Dazs products produced in Europe. To encourage the development of alternative production methods in the United States, General Mills purchased 1 million eggs from cage-free hens for its US retail operations in 2012.
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