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General Mills Sets New Sustainability Goals for 2015

General Mills has set four new global environmental sustainability goals for 2015. These goals include reducing water use, energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions all by 20 percent, as well as cutting solid waste generation by 50 percent.

The four global environmental sustainability goals measure the company’s global manufacturing operations using rates normalized per metric ton of product. The water use goal is measured against a 2006 baseline, while the solid waste, energy and greenhouse gas goals are measured against a 2005 baseline.

General Mills also has established a U.S. transportation goal of reducing the amount of fuel used to ship each pound of product by fiscal 2015, using fiscal 2009 as a baseline. This goal would reduce the rate of GHG emissions generated by shipping the company’s products by 35 percent by fiscal 2015.

General Mills also provided details on its progress in four environmental sustainability areas through the end of the company’s 2010 fiscal year.

The company has reduced its water use rate by 9 percent, nearly twice the 5 percent goal set in fiscal 2006, and cut its solid waste generation rate by 33 percent, more than twice the 15 percent goal set in fiscal year 2005.

However, General Mills missed a couple of target goals. The company reduced its energy consumption rate by 6 percent, which is short of the company’s 15 percent goal set in fiscal 2005, and only cut its greenhouse gas emission rate by 8 percent, about half the company’s 15 percent reduction goal from fiscal 2005.

Despite missing its energy use reduction goal, several of the company’s plants have been making considerable progress, according to the company’s 2010 Corporate Social Responsibility Report (PDF) released earlier this year. As examples, the plants that produce its Pillsbury products reduced their energy consumption rate by 18.4 percent through the end of fiscal 2009, and the plants that produce its Yoplait products reduced their energy consumption rate by 13 percent through the end of fiscal 2009, since 2005.

Renewable energy also is part of General Mill’s environmental strategy. As an example, in April 2009, the company’s plant in San Adrian, Spain, switched to an electricity provider that uses only renewable sources such as wind power.

In July, General Mills completed the installation of a solar power system at its warehouse in Methuen, Mass., which is expected to supply nearly 80 percent of the warehouse’s power needs during the summer and 40 percent during the rest of the year.

In addition, the General Mills oat milling facility in Fridley, Minn., will soon become the company’s first biomass-powered plant, which will consume about 12 percent of the oat hulls left over from the milling process to make food like Cheerios. The biomass burner is expected to reduce the plant’s carbon footprint by 21 percent, and save more than $500,000 in natural gas costs every year.

Sustainable agriculture is also part of the company’s environmental agenda. In September, General Mills said it would “strive to source 100 percent of our palm oil from responsible and sustainable sources by 2015.”

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