General Mills has exceeded its targets on solid waste generation and water usage but fallen short of goals on energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, according to the company’s 2011 Corporate Social Responsibility report.
The food manufacturer cut its solid waste generation by 33 percent between 2006 and 2010, compared to a 2005 baseline, smashing its 15 percent reduction target. In the same time General Mills cut water usage by nine percent, beating its five percent goal.
But it cut greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by only eight percent and energy consumption by just six percent, missing a 15 percent by 2010 target in both cases.
The company now has goals in each category for fiscal year 2015: these are 20 percent reductions in energy consumption, GHG emissions and water usage and 50 percent for solid waste. It also has a goal to cut transportation fuel 35 percent by 2015, from a 2009 baseline.
And in this report, General Mills unveiled a new goal to improve the packaging of 40 percent of its global product volume by 2015, against a 2009 baseline. It will use four key indicators to assess improvement: packaging weight, recycled content, renewable content and truck loading efficiency.
“We’re pleased with our overall progress and feel confident we have the systems in place to achieve more substantial gains in the next five years,” Larry Deeney, director of environmental sustainability, said.
The company said it fell short on the energy consumption goal in part because consumer demand had grown for products, such as cereal or granola bars, that require cooking or toasting. The company measures its energy usage rate as the amount of energy required to produce a pound of product.
General Mills said it expects to cut consumption further as systems and procedures now in place come into more extensive use. It said that its new 20 percent goal is attainable, especially as the bulk of its energy reductions occurred in the past three years.
The report noted that General Mills has seen bigger energy savings in certain parts of its operations. The plants that produce its Big G cereals – the company’s largest business in the U.S. – reduced their energy consumption rate by 14 percent through the end of fiscal 2010. The facilities that produce its Pillsbury products cut their energy consumption rate by 17 percent.
General Mills said it believes its systems and processes now in place will also enable it to reach the 20 percent GHG reduction goal. In 2010 it installed the company’s first solar panels and built its first biomass burner, at an oat-milling facility in Fridley, Minn.
The biomass facility burns oat hulls, a product leftover from making oat flour, producing 90 percent of the steam needed for heating the plant. The oat hulls are also burned by a nearby biomass plant that generates enough electricity, on average, to power 17,000 homes.
General Mills was recently named one of four most ethical companies in the food and drink sector.
But another study, by Climate Counts and Angust Reid, said that General Mills is one of many companies whose perceived sustainability action is significantly higher than its actual achievement. The company has a perception score of over 78, but its actual score is below 59.