General Mills now sources 69% of its top ten priority ingredients from sustainable sources, the company announced this week. The most significant process has been made toward palm oil (100%), fiber packaging (99%) and sugar beets, sugar cane and oats (50% or more).
General Mills says it has taken several concrete steps to source its ingredients in a sustainable way:
- Working directly with dairy and row crops farmers to help them reduce their environmental impact of agriculture and documenting improvements over time;
- Working within the palm oil, fiber packaging and sugarcane industry to improve practices across the board, and conducting independent verifications in high-risk regions;
- Investing directly at the origin for crops like vanilla and cocoa to improve smallholder farmer livelihoods and ingredient quality.
In 2013, General Mills made a commitment to sustainably source 100% of the company’s ten priority ingredients by 2020. These priority ingredients represent 40 percent of the company’s annual raw material purchases and include cocoa, vanilla, oats, US wheat, US sugar beets, US corn (dry milled), US dairy (raw fluid milk), fiber packaging, sugar cane and palm oil.
Kellogg Company is another CPG focused on sustainable sourcing. In a recent Q&A with Environmental Leader, Kellogg sustainability director Amy Braun talked about the relationships the company has with farmers to help them use practices. “In Michigan one of our suppliers, Star of the West Milling, provides wheat products that go into Frosted Mini Wheats and other brands. We have a relationship with 16 different farmers there to measure continuous improvements on their practices,” she said. “We bring Kellogg teams as well as some of our partners like The Nature Conservancy there.”
As Kellogg moves toward sustainable sourcing, the company makes sure its sustainability teams work closely with the procurement teams who work with suppliers every day. Sustainability is embedded in the teams’ sourcing events, annual supplier scorecards, awards and recognition for suppliers, and even their annual objectives as buyers.
Sustainable sourcing is invaluable to companies in terms of helping mitigate risk, Dave Meyer, an EHS consultant, told Environmental Leader. “Companies that do not match their customer-supplier expectations stand to lose major contracts. We’ve seen that on many occasions as large global companies audit and visit these facilities.” Working toward making sure suppliers are sourcing their materials in a sustainable manner is a challenge, Meyer acknowledges. He offers these ideas:
- Some query and survey companies, and compare them against other players within their industries — and to the Global Reporting Initiative, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, and other indices.
- Many companies do supplier audits. Doing onsite audits is one method. Sending out questionnaires can work, but a lot of companies have “supplier fatigue,” he says. “I’ve got one customer that gets inquiries almost on a daily basis.”
- Training is another tool. The approach that HP and General Electric took many years ago: Holding summits with their key suppliers to walk them through their expectations and help them develop infrastructure to meet those needs.