The maker of Old El Paso tacos, Betty Crocker cake mixes and Haagan Daz ice-cream has today committed to industry-leading measures to cut pollution from its supply chains and press for political action to address climate change.
Oxfam welcomes the announcement from General Mills, owner of Betty Crocker and Old El Paso, which comes after more than 230,000 people, including thousands of Kiwis, signed petitions and took action as part of Oxfam’s campaign to urge food and drink companies to help stop climate change.
General Mills is one of the world’s ten biggest food and drink companies and the commitments announced today make it the first major food and drink company to promise to apply long-term science-based targets to drastically cut pollution across all of its operations and supply chains.
Rachael Le Mesurier, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand said: “This is a huge win for Kiwis. Today General Mills has taken a bold step to become an industry leader in addressing the clear danger climate change poses to our food system.
For the food and drink industry, climate change is a major threat. For millions of people, it means more extreme weather, more pollution, greater hunger and deeper poverty. Rather than stand by silently as climate change undermines its business and the food we all eat, General Mills aims to be part of the solution. Political leaders and others in the industry should take note,” Le Mesurier said.
The company has also signed-on to the Climate Declaration and joined the steering group of Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP) a leading advocacy coalition of businesses committed to working with policy makers to pass meaningful climate and energy laws.
“This would not have happened without the remarkable outpouring of public action from people who are fed up with the lack of effort to address climate change from too many food companies and governments. It’s further evidence that consumers have a huge say in how companies operate if they raise their voice,” Le Mesurier said.
Kellogg, the makers of Coco Pops, Cornflakes and All Bran are the other target of Oxfam’s campaign and have yet to address the issues highlighted by Oxfam’s report, Standing on the Sidelines.
As one of the biggest food and beverage companies on the planet General Mills has immense power to influence its suppliers and help create stronger standards in the industry. Oxfam’s report revealed that the 10 biggest food and beverage companies together emit so much pollution that, if they were a single country, they would be the 25th most polluting in the world.
The report also highlighted cases in Liberia and Indonesia where suppliers of palm oil to General Mills and Kellogg are accused of clearing land and burning forests. In light of these new commitments, Oxfam expects the company to addresses the issues raised in Indonesia and Liberia with its suppliers.
Kellogg is one of General Mills’ main competitors in the industry and the company faces growing pressure from the public to act. General Mills has shown that the only thing standing in the way of greater climate action from food and beverage companies is the political will.
Oxfam welcomes General Mills’ climate action commitment including its promises to:
1. Define and disclose a total supply chain pollution reduction target by August 2015, with a focus on achieving agriculture emissions reductions.
2. Aim to achieve zero net deforestation, in countries at high-risk for deforestation that supply ingredients for General Mills products, by 2020. This expands its previous commitments for palm oil to include other supply chains at high risk for deforestation and land degradation including, beef, soy and sugarcane.
3. Disclose their top three suppliers of palm oil and sugar cane.
4. Participate in the Carbon Disclosure Project, including annual reporting on pollution data and responding to the Forests Information Request.
5. Publicly advocate for effective and efficient public and industry association policy, such as encouraging peers to join the Consumer Goods Forum’s zero net deforestation commitment.
6. Join advocacy group ‘Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy’ and sign-on to the Climate Declaration.
7. Regularly review company statements and policies to ensure they are aligned with mitigation targets, plans, and adaptation initiatives. Report on governance-related activity on climate policy where material.
8. Assess their supplier practices for all high-risk commodities of material significance and, where necessary, take action to address material issues.
“We applaud General Mills for taking this vital first step,” said Le Mesurier. “We look forward to tracking the actions the company takes to follow through on their promises. The ball is now in Kellogg’s court to respond to the hundreds of thousands of people calling for climate action.”