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General Mills brands

General Mills’ Shareholders Vote on Post-Consumer Waste Strategies

General Mills brandsGeneral Mills’ investors will ask the company to take responsibility for recycling its post-consumer packaging waste at the firm’s annual meeting Sept. 24.

At the company meeting in Minneapolis, shareholders will vote on a resolution asking General Mills to assess post-consumer waste strategies, including a policy that shifts responsibility for packaging waste from taxpayers and governments to producers, known as extended producer responsibility (EPR).

As You Sow, a nonprofit organization that promotes corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, filed the shareholder resolution, which was co-filed by Clean Yield Asset Management.

More than 40 countries require companies to take partial or total responsibility for recycling packaging, according to the nonprofit. Research by As You Sow concluded that packaging materials worth $11.4 billion are buried in landfills annually.

Prior to filing, As You Sow senior vice president Conrad MacKerron, was in dialogue with General Mills management, asking them to initiate new sustainable packaging programs. One request was to take steps that would lead to an increase in recycling of the hundreds of millions of Yoplait yogurt cups sold annually in the US by funding municipal collection of polypropylene, also known as #5 plastic. According to the EPA, only about 15 percent of these kinds of containers are recycled, which means that the vast majority end up in landfills.

In 2010, General Mills launched a pilot program with Waste Management in Denver to educate customers about #5 plastic recycling. MacKerron says the company would not make any further commitments to increase recovery in other areas.

As You Sow is engaging several other giant consumer brands on the same issue including Colgate-Palmolive, Kraft Foods, Mondelez International, Procter & Gamble and Unilever.

Environmental and social topics represent the largest category of shareholder proposals submitted in 2013, comprising just under 40 percent of all shareholder proposals filed, according to an Ernst & Young report published last week.

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