Global food shortages could strike as result of climate change – General Mills

© James Akena
Food giant General Mills has announced a commitment to reduce its greenhouse emissions by 28 percent by 2025, while also asserting that human-caused climate change could lead to food shortages worldwide.

In a Sunday statement, General Mills announced a plan to reduce its absolute greenhouse gas emissions across its value chain, “from farm to fork to landfill.” 

The company said that it has “long been committed to being part of the solution on climate change,” according to its website, and CEO Ken Powell said climate action is as much a good business strategy as it is a corporate responsibility gesture.

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"We think that human-caused greenhouse gas causes climate change and climate volatility and that's going to stress the agricultural supply chain, which is very important to us," Powell said in an interview with the Associated Press. "Obviously we depend on that for our business, and we all depend on that for the food we eat."

This isn’t just talk: Since 2005, the company has managed to reduce its emissions by 13 percent. But getting to 28 percent in the same amount of time is a little more complicated than just making company-wide green policies like using less cardboard and plastic in its packaging, as 92 percent of greenhouse emissions in its chain come from entities that it doesn’t control.

However, General Mills, whose brands range from Haagen-Dazs ice cream to Progresso soups, can exert strong influence over such entities, and this cooperation would be an essential part of its climate plan.

A spokeswoman for General Mills said symptoms of climate change are already having an effect on food production, pointing to extreme and volatile weather conditions and the decline in pollinating insects. A dramatic example of this is the drought in California, which threatens a large parts of the United States’ agriculture industry. 

This fear of a hungry future is visible in the company’s climate action plan. In addition to investing $100 million in cleaner energy in its own operations, General Mills will encourage its partners to use “climate-resilient” soils. 

READ MORE: California drought worst in 1,200 years – study

John Church, General Mills’ senior vice president of global supply chain, told Minnesota Public Radio that the company is also working with its milk suppliers to cut greenhouse gas emission through better management of cattle.

"Our biggest greenhouse gas contributing ingredient is dairy, milk," he said. "In that supply chain, it's because the cows themselves create methane in their digestive process."

These climate-conscious moves reflect a growing trend of corporations making environmental pledges. In 2014, General Mills became a member of Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP), a policy advocacy group that lobbies to pass climate change and energy legislation, joining competitors such as Nestle and Kellogg’s.