General Mills Product Shifts Lead to Climate Goal Challenges

A shift to selling less flour and more cereal has made it more challenging for General Mills to meets its long-term energy and climate targets.

The company set goals of cutting energy and emissions each by 15 percent by fiscal year (FY) 2010, relative to a 2005 baseline. But as of FY 2009, energy use was down just 2.4 percent and emissions lower by 2.3 percent since 2005.

That’s because flour is dense and can be produced with relatively less energy. Cereal, on the other hand, is more energy-intensive because it is cooked or toasted. Since it is also less dense than flour, it skews General Mills’ energy use per metric ton of production higher.

If its product mix hadn’t changed over the years, energy use and emissions today would be about 7 percent lower than in 2005, but it did make gains in water use and solid waste reduction, the company said in its 2009 Corporate Social Responsibility report released today. The report offers a progress report on its 2010 goals, lays the foundation for the creation of a new set of targets and offers snippets of individual achievements propelling the company forward.

For example, General Mills, recently named a top corporate citizen by CRO Magazine, is putting about 12 percent of the oat hulls used to make Cheerios and other foods into a feedstock for the company’s first biomass-powered plant in Fridley, Minn. The hulls produce about 90 percent of the steam used to make oat flour and heat the plant. The move will save the company more than $500,000 a year and trim the plant’s carbon footprint by 21 percent.

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Author: Dewita

Co-founder Ecotwist Labs.

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