How many times a day do you eat something that contains rice, wheat, or corn? If you’re like the rest of the world, chances are you consume one of those grains on a daily basis. These three cereal grains directly contribute more than half of all calories consumed by human beings, and US farms supply nearly 25% of all grains., 
What’s Global Warming Got to Do with It?
Global warming is causing rapid changes in water supply and weather around the world, threatening to be detrimental to the growth of these crops. While in certain circumstances an increase in CO2 can increase plant growth, the additional variability in temperature and extreme weather will eliminate any possible benefits. In addition, elevated levels of CO2 have been associated with reduced protein and nutrient content in various crops.
The following chart from the US Environmental Protection Agency illustrates the impact of extreme weather events on annual corn yields. Despite significant agricultural advancements since the 1960s, extreme weather events due to global warming still cause significant reductions in corn yields.
With brands such as Cheerios, Pillsbury, and Betty Crocker, and 2016 global sales of $16.6 billion, General Mills is one of the largest food manufacturers in the world. Their global operations span 13 countries, making them particularly susceptible to the impact of global warming on food production. Their principal raw materials are wheat, oats, and corn, and in 2015 General Mills shipped more than 247 billion grams of grains. The majority of their inputs are purchased on the open market, and the costs may “fluctuate widely due to external conditions such as weather, product scarcity, […] and changes in governmental agricultural and energy policies and regulations.” Upstream, they will be affected as their suppliers experience crop declines. Downstream, they may have to pass on increased costs to their end consumers.
The State of Sustainability at General Mills
In their 2014 Policy on Climate, General Mills laid out their approach to mitigate their internal environmental footprint, as well as adapt to support their external partners to advance sustainable agriculture in a changing environment.
Internally, their approach includes reductions in areas such as greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, fuel use, packaging, waste, and water consumption. They are working to decrease Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions from their directly controlled operations, which represents 11 percent of their carbon footprint.
Externally, they also collaborate with others to reduce Scope 3 emissions across the value chain, which represent the vast majority of their carbon footprint. To this end, they have invested in proprietary plant breeding programs with the goal of providing farmers with seeds that are optimized for high-yield, high-quality crops despite climate variability. They also support innovation for farmers to reduce their environmental impacts, and provide technical assistance to growers in partnership with suppliers, NGOs, and industry round tables. They are also working with businesses and policymakers to advocate for innovative and impactful climate and clean energy policies.
General Mills recognizes the impact climate change will have on the food industry, and is taking many steps to do their part in mitigating their impact. However, while they have spent time working upstream with their suppliers and farmers, they have not spent much time focusing on their end consumer. A recent Nielsen global online study found that 66% of respondents and 72% of Millennials are willing to pay more for products from a company that is committed to positive social and environmental impact. Publicizing the steps that General Mills is taking to fight climate change will allow consumers to vote with their dollars, and help push the entire food industry in the right direction.
Another large contributor to global warming is the methane generated from food waste in landfills. General Mills should use its position as a large food company to educate consumers on the importance of food waste reduction. The company can take further steps to make its packaging out of compostable or recyclable materials. By implementing numerous changes and mitigation efforts along its supply chain, General Mills is working to ensure that it will have a steady supply of grains going forward.
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 “General Mills: Our Foods.” Web. 03 Nov. 2016. <https://www.generalmills.com/en/Health/our-foods>.
 General Mills. (2016). Annual report 2016. Retrieved from http://investors.generalmills.com/quarterly-earnings.
 “General Mills: Climate Policy.” Web. 03 Nov. 2016. <https://www.generalmills.com/News/Issues/climate-policy>.
 “General Mills: Reducing GHG Emissions.” Web. 03 Nov. 2016. <https://www.generalmills.com/en/Responsibility/Environment/environment-approach/reducing-ghg-emissions>.
 “Green Generation: Millennials Say Sustainability Is a Shopping Priority.” Web. 03 Nov. 2016. <http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2015/green-generation-millennials-say-sustainability-is-a-shopping-priority.html>.