Public Policy for the Greater Good
As one of the world's largest food companies, General Mills plays an important role in the everyday lives of people around the world. One important way we do this is by engaging in the public sphere, adding our voice to important discussions on public policies to improve the lives of our consumers.
Our public engagement is focused in five key areas:
Protecting and Preserving our Planet
Ensuring Safe Food
Increasing Food Security and Strengthening Communities
Informing Consumers and Increasing Awareness
Our sustainability mission is to treat the world with care. Our focus areas include combating climate change, advancing regenerative agriculture and water stewardship, sourcing our ingredients sustainably, and improving the health of ecosystems in our supply chain.
We actively engage in public policy discussions to advance these environmental priorities, including the following actions:
Leading on Regenerative Agriculture and Soil Health
- General Mills is leading the charge on regenerative agriculture, with industry-leading investments to help support our farmers as they shift agriculture in North America towards more sustainable practices. Read more about our work here.
- We are strong supporters of the Foundation for Food and Ag Research (FFAR), a critical facilitator of public private partnerships between industry and farmers.
- Policy is critical tool to advance this work. General Mills is a leading voice on regenerative agriculture and encourage the U.S. Congress to strengthen collaboration between organizations, components of our supply chains and domestic agriculture producers to meet ambitious sustainability goals we have set for ourselves.
- We helped establish the Ecosystem Service Market Consortium (ESMC), which quantifies the benefits of sustainable agricultural practices so farmers can be paid for providing them
- General Mills’ Senior Agriculture Scientist, Dr. Steve Rosenzweig, PhD, testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry in December 2020 on the importance of agriculture research. His testimony included an overview of regenerative agriculture, why General Mills has invested it in, the need for more public research, our public climate commitment, regenerative agriculture’s role as a tool to mitigate climate change and our public private partnerships that further enhance our work.
- We are constantly evaluating new federal, state and local policy opportunities to advance regenerative farming practices.
- We responded to the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and Senate Democrats' Special Committee on Climate Crisis with our comments on the potential of regenerative agriculture to mitigate climate change, highlighting policies that help us support farmers through public private partnerships.
- We support the bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act which will provide farmers with much-needed technical assistance to be able to participate in voluntary carbon markets.
- During 2018 Farmer Bill negotiations, we supported the Soil Health and Income Protection Program (SHIPP). This new programs within USDA's Conservation Reserve Program will pay farmers to plant cover crops on their land for three to five years.
- We strongly support the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which relies on existing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) authorities to invest in agricultural conservation efforts and leverages private-sector financial and technical resources, resulting in a multiplying effect unparalleled in other federal programs. Read our letter to Congress here.
Additional Climate Change Leadership
- General Mills has been a leader in recognizing the impacts of climate change to our planet, and our business. We have established industry-leading, science-based targets for carbon reduction – read more here.
- We advocate for climate change policies that builds on this leadership:
- General Mills joins over 300 businesses for Ceres' annual LEAD on Climate 2020 Day to call on Congress to pass a resilient economic recovery plan while working toward long term climate solutions - including a price on carbon.
- We support the U.S. commitment to the Paris Climate Accord, and have publicly supported the U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
- We advocate for stronger climate and clean energy policies at the state and federal level in the U.S., including the follow public actions:
- Michigan Business Support Action on Climate - September 2020
- RCPP Farm Bill Support Letter – April 2018
- LCUSA Paris Agreement Letter to President Trump – February 2017
- Missouri PPA and Green Tariff Business Support Letter – December 2017
- Joint Companies Statement Supporting Stronger Truck Standards – May 2016
- Join Companies Statement: 'Business Backs Low Carbon USA' / CPP – May 2016
- Low Carbon USA Paris Agreement Letter to President Trump – February 2016
- Minnesota Support Letter for joining Governor's Accord – March 2016
- Michigan Support Letters for Renewable Energy – May 2015, October 2015, April 2016, November 2016
- Michigan Support Letter for Implementation of Carbon Pollution Standards – July 2015
Supporting Strong Organic Standards
- We’re proud of our long history of engagement to develop strong, national U.S. organic standards, and have fought to promote and protect the integrity of the standard and advance its continuous improvement.
- General Mills executive and first sustainability officer, Gene Kahn, was a founding member of the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Standards Board which wrote the first standards for certified organic food production in the U.S.
- We support efforts to increase U.S. organic acreage through strategic engagements and by building infrastructure for farmers, including, but not limited to applied research, extension, and education/outreach.
- We strongly support the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and the critical role it plays in the organic industry, and in 2018 our organic brands – Annie’s and Cascadian Farm – joined in calling on Congress to continue to support NOSB during its deliberations.
- Annie’s, Cascadian Farm and Muir Glen joined a letter to Congress in 2018 urging them to support funding for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), which seeks to solve critical organic agriculture issues, priorities, or problems through the integration of research, education, and extension activities.
- General Mills and members of the Organic Trade Association Dairy Council signed a letter to support the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to finalize a 2015 rule, providing the organic dairy industry with consistent, clear regulation on the transition of conventional livestock to organic production and protecting the integrity of organic dairy production.
Advancing Water Stewardship
- As a global food company, water is critical to our business. We take a broad approach to water stewardship, looking beyond our company’s walls to the phases of our value chain that drive overall use.
- We also engage policy makers to drive more sustainable water practices. Examples include our membership in the California Water Action Collaborative, a platform for diverse stakeholders to come together and pursue collective action projects that will improve water security in California for people, business, agriculture and nature, and Connect the Drops, which educates California lawmakers about such efforts and advocates for policy solutions there.
Addressing Packaging and Food Waste
- General Mills promotes policies to effectively and efficiently increase packaging recycling rates and reduce waste – you can read more about our global packaging ambitions here.
- In the United States, we are a leader in AMERIPEN – the American Institute for Packaging and the Environment – which conducts research and advocates for policy changes to achieve these goals at both the state and federal level.
- As a leading member of the Consumer Brands Association, we support their convening of the Recycling Leadership Council which built a public policy framework to fundamentally reimagine the U.S. recycling system.
- General Mills signed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s America Recycles Pledge to build on our existing efforts to address the challenges facing our nation's recycling system and to identify solutions that create a more resilient materials economy and protect the environment.
- General Mills is leading in a host of multi-sector as well as industry coalitions aimed at reducing and ending food waste and loss:
- The Food Waste Reduction Alliance, a partnership of U.S. food manufacturers, grocery retailers and restaurants and foodservice companies.
- General Mills was named by the United States Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration as a 2030 Food Waste and Loss Champion.
- The International Food Waste Coalition, which is developing strategies to address food waste in the E.U. and beyond.
- The nonprofit organization, ReFED (“Re-think Food Waste through Economics and Data”), which is advancing food waste prevention and surplus food recovery solutions by aligning and mobilizing cross-sector coalitions that include local, state and federal governments, nonprofit organizations, food companies, waste management companies, entrepreneurs and others.
- We are a founding partner with Feeding America - we were the leading partner in developing their logistics network and Meal Connect, an app that connects excess food to local food banks. Our partnership includes food donations, promotional marketing, and local volunteerism. To date we've been able to rescue almost two billion pounds of food.
- For more than two decades, we have supported efforts to fight food waste and hunger on college and university campuses via The Campus Kitchens Project, Food Recovery Network (recently combined), which have engaged 125,000+ students at 230 colleges and universities in food waste reduction programs, last year alone recovering more than 3.2 million pounds of surplus food to nourish people in need.
Our goal is to provide a diverse portfolio of products that contribute to the well-being of consumers and meet a variety of needs. We are committed to making food with passion and putting people first by improving the variety and nutrient density of our products.
Annually, we share results on the variety and nutritional characteristics of our product portfolio. This is reported as the % of global volume that meets our internal criteria for “Nutrition-Forward.” We are proud to report that in fiscal 2020, 43% of General Mills global volume met our criteria as “Nutrition-Forward Foods.” Learn more about our global health reporting.
Our marketing policies ensure that our child-directed advertising promotes only lower-calorie, nutrient dense products. We take particular care around the content and nature of advertising directed to children – including pre-screening of our ads by the Better Business Bureau’s Children’s Advertising Review Unit.
We actively engage in public policy discussions to advance these nutrition priorities, including the following actions:
- Supporting flexibilities in USDA food and nutrition programs to ensure full benefit access to WIC, School Lunch, Breakfast and SNAP during the COVID-19 pandemic beginning in March 2020.
- In February 2021, General Mills partnered with hunger organizations and peer food companies in a letter to Congressional leadership expressing support for inclusion of food security and nutrition provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The legislation became Public Law on March 11, 2021. Access the letter here.
- In August 2020, General Mills and corporate partners of No Kid Hungry joined together in a letter to USDA Secretary Perdue expressing support for USDA to continue flexibilities that are helping poverty-level children access school lunch and breakfast. As a result of this letter, advocacy from hunger partner organizations and bipartisan support from members of the U.S. House and Senate, the flexibilities were extended beyond August 2020 through June 2021. Access the letter here.
- In March 2020 a cross-functional team of General Mills employees came together to support WIC consumers and ensure they have access to the food they need during the COVID-19 pandemic. We worked to ensure that our facilities prioritized making those food that are most approved and popular among WIC participants. We also reached out to State WIC agencies to provide a list of General Mills WIC-eligible products that qualify for USDA's WIC Food Package Substitution Waiver.
- Supporting strong Dietary Guidelines for Americans (see our recommendations for consideration to the Dietary Guidelines for American Advisory Committee as they develop the report and final recommendations for the 2020-2025 DGAs in July 2019 here & here and in January 2020 here).
- GMI supports voluntary sodium reduction efforts, as evidenced by our continued work and efforts within various regional sodium reduction initiatives. See our comments on Voluntary Short Term Sodium Targets here and our 2019 press release statement here.
- Supporting the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s efforts to reflect the newest scientific information in the definition of “healthy” (see our letter to FDA).
- Supporting strong U.S. school nutrition standards, including encouraging USDA to balance meal program flexibility and efficiency while ensuring Dietary Guidelines recommendations are followed, especially related to whole grain-rich offerings.
- Supporting the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and WIC consumer access to a variety of fortified ready-to-eat whole grain breakfast cereals and yogurt. We identify opportunities for our nutritionists and staff to work directly with scientific communities and USDA who are charged with developing recommendations for the “WIC Food Basket” to ensure our input is considered in their recommendations.
- General Mills and Kellogg’s annually celebrate National Cereal Day with lawmakers in Washington, DC sharing information about the nutritional benefits and affordability of ready-to-eat cereal.
Learn more about our Nutrition and Food Safety Partnerships and Collaborations
Safety is a priority for our company and central to our culture. Leading with safety – both in the workplace and the food we make – is one of the key operating principles that guides our work. We invested US $13.6 million in food safety in fiscal 2020; equal to 9.25% of our total essential supply chain capital investment for the year. Read more our food safety approach here.
We have a long history in food safety leadership. The Pillsbury Company, more than 50 years ago, developed the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) process with NASA for ensuring food safety. The HACCP approach identifies key stages in production where food safety risks can be minimized or eliminated. Today, HACCP has become the food industry’s gold standard and the backbone of many countries’ food safety regulations around the world.
Food safety leadership is a differentiator for General Mills, but not an area of competition. We freely share our best practices, emerging areas of concern and collaborate with industry peers and regulators to help raise standards industrywide.
We actively engage in public policy discussions to ensure safe food, including the following actions:
- We strongly support the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the largest revamp of U.S. food safety laws in decades, and its goal of raising up food safety standards across the food value chain. We supported the originating legislation for FSMA and the regulations for its implementation, and have consistently called on Congress to continue adequate funding for FSMA implementation.
General Mills works to ensure all members of a community have access to nutritious and sufficient food through strategic initiatives, grants, food donations and knowledge sharing.
- The General Mills Foundation has donated $2.5 billion to charitable causes since 1954.
- In fiscal 2020, General Mills contributed more than $92 million in charitable giving worldwide.
- In 2020 our philanthropic partners and food donations enabled nearly 7 billion meals worldwide.
- We recently partnered with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation to publish the Prioritizing Food Security Solutions toolkit and the Alliance to End Hunger to publish a Self-Assessment Workbook for the Hunger Free Communities Network to help local communities identify and address the own unique needs and assets to tackle food insecurity.
- General Mills pioneered food allergen labeling in the 1990s, and our leadership continues today. We voluntarily included sesame as a labeled allergen and supported industry efforts to advance the FASTER Act, which will lead to sesame being labeled as an allergen in the US. Learn more about allergen labeling here.
To learn more about our focus areas and our partners, please visit the Our Community Section of the Global Responsibility Report.
We also actively engage in public policy discussions to increase food security and strengthen communities, including the following actions:
Increasing Food Security
- At the federal level, we are a longtime supporter of The Congressional Hunger Center and its Emerson Hunger Fellowship Program which works to make issues of domestic and international hunger a priority to policymakers in the U.S. government, and to raise a new generation of leaders to fight against hunger and poverty.
- General Mills is proud to have received the 2018 Corporate Partner Hunger Leadership Award from The Congressional Hunger Center, for centering food security, sustainable agriculture, and strengthening hometown communities in our philanthropic strategy.
- We work with several initiatives to advance public policy at the state level that would increase food security, including:
- Supporting and empowering people
- At General Mills, we put people first. We advocate for inclusive public policies and add our voice to help lead change.
- General Mills advocates for racial equality, focusing on our headquarters community of Minneapolis. General Mills condemned the killing of George Floyd, perpetrated just miles from our headquarters. In coalition, we swiftly called on the MN State Legislature to enact reforms aimed at preventing unacceptable police behavior and holding perpetrators accountable. We led the creation of the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity, a group of companies who have come together to do more, to do things differently, and to create a better future with and for Black Minnesotans – a new approach based on the partnership between business and the community. The Coalition is focused on driving action on public policy, the workplace, philanthropy, and allyship. We recognize that there will be much more work to be done in the years to come and are clear in our commitment to remain engaged, and have made specific commitments to advance racial equity in education, food access and representation.
- General Mills supports inclusive U.S. immigration policy. We are a member of the New American Economy, a coalition of diverse business leaders who support immigration reforms that will help create jobs for Americans today. And we stood up and called on Congress to immediately pass the bipartisan Dream Act or legislation that provides Dreamers raised in our country the permanent solution they deserve.
- General Mills supports inclusive LGBT public policy. We are a long-standing leader in the HRC Corporate Equality Index, which includes public policy engagement as a key measure. We are strong supporters of the Equality Act, and submitted a statement for the congressional record. General Mills executives publicly testified before the U.S. Congress – in 2007 and 2012 for predecessor measures to show our support. We joined the business brief to the U.S. Supreme Court supporting marriage equality, and we were the largest company opposing an amendment to the constitution in our home state that would have blocked marriage equality.
- General Mills has a long history of supporting employees’ civic engagement. We built an internal voter information center for employees to give them the resources to make their voice heard in their community. We also hosted informational webinars to educate and discuss the election.
- Strengthening our Communities
- In addition to our philanthropic support for our hometown communities, we also develop important community partnerships that drive economic growth and increase connectedness. For example, we played a catalyst role in our hometown in the formation of both Greater MSP – the Minneapolis St. Paul Regional Economic Development Partnership, and MBOLD, which mobilizes Minnesota's globally leading concentration of food and agriculture leadership to develop practical solutions to global challenges facing the food and agriculture sectors.
- General Mills responded to a request from the State of Minnesota to help residents struggling to afford nutritious food during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working with the state we developed a digital marketing platform for the campaign, www.mnfoodhelper.org, to bring awareness for SNAP. The announcement can be found here.
We are committed to increasing transparency and helping you understand what's in your food. That's why we’re are putting more information in more places, including the following initiatives:
- AskGeneralMills.com: Get answers about our food.
- SmartLabel™: Offers U.S. product information in a consistent, easy-to-access digital format.
- Non-GMO Project Verified: A non-profit listing third-party verified non-GMO food and products.
- Bioengineered Disclosure: We have been disclosing the presence of bioengineered ingredients on our U.S. packages since 2016. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has finalized rules for disclosure moving forward, which go into effect January 2022. We will continue to voluntarily disclose the presence of bioengineered ingredients on our U.S. packages using the allowed text under the rule.
We also actively support public policy efforts to inform our consumers and increase their awareness about our products. For example, we are active members of several organizations that provided comments to the USDA requesting that more information about bioengineered ingredients be made available to consumers, not less (one example here). We strongly support this.