General Mills on Tuesday announced its commitment to champion development of water stewardship plans by 2025 for the company's most material and at-risk watersheds in its global value chain. The commitment is in recognition of World Water Day and in conjunction with the White House Water Summit. As part of this commitment, the company will lead corporate collaboration efforts, foster development of foundational tools, and advocate science-based policy in these watersheds, commensurate with the gap in stewardship in each individual watershed.
"Water stress is, in many cases, the embodiment of climate change," said John Church, executive vice president of supply chain for General Mills. "We've already made a commitment to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent, and we see our water stewardship commitment as another way we can address our business risk created by climate change."
According to the commitment, in watersheds where sound plans exist and are moving toward a sustainable future, General Mills will be a participant; and in watersheds where stewardship plans are needed, General Mills will take action to lead particularly in areas where the company has unique skills or scale.
Through General Mills' partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Sustainable Conservation, the company is currently working in the Los Angeles River and San Joaquin River watersheds in California to support development of science and tools to promote sustainable groundwater management. This work is in alignment with the objectives of the California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. General Mills also supports watershed efforts in the Snake River Basin in Idaho, and the Rio Grande Watershed in New Mexico.
In 2014, the company enacted a corporate water policy which provides a solid framework that guides General Mills' engagement with stakeholders to improve the health of watersheds, particularly those in high-risk regions where the company operates. The water policy also underscores the industry-leading work of General Mills and its key partner, TNC, in seven of the company's most material and most at-risk watersheds around the world. In China, particularly in the Shanghai and Beijing areas where General Mills has facilities and sources ingredients, joint work is underway to better understand water risks and determine appropriate action.
Previously, General Mills funded research into the water challenges of the Guanajuato region of Mexico; however, with the sale of Green Giant brand, the company is no longer involved but the work continues to provide guidance to ongoing regional efforts. Additionally, General Mills is an active member of the CEO Water Mandate and the United States Water Partnership, and a founding partner of the Alliance for Water Stewardship.
"Water is critical to food production, from the farmers' fields to our facilities where we rely on water resources to ensure the safety and quality of our products," said Church. "As a global food company, we have a responsibility to protect the quality and supply of water, and continue to look for ways to reduce and reuse water when possible. We hope our commitment encourages others to do the same, because collectively we can make a greater impact."