General Mills identifies actionable ‘climate levers’ in new transition plan to reach net-zero

General Mills has unveiled a new Climate Transition Plan, detailing the roles that regenerative agriculture, the electrification of transport, and a switch to renewables can playing in reaching a long-term target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

General Mills identifies actionable ‘climate levers’ in new transition plan to reach net-zero

The food processing giant’s new Climate Transition Plan, published on Thursday (18 April), outlines several “climate levers” that can be addressed to tackle emissions by 2030 across a range of subjects.

These levers showcase the contribution that identified solutions can have in building toward a target to reduce value chain emissions by 30% by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050. Agriculture and ingredients account for 33% of identified solutions, followed by transportation and a “solutions team” that analyses new and emerging technologies (both 23%). Other levers include dairy innovation, supplier engagement, packaging and energy and manufacturing.

“The health of our planet and our ability to make food the world loves are inherently intertwined,” General Mills’ chief sustainability and global impact officer, Mary Jane Melendez, said.

“Our Climate Transition Action Plan and continued progress demonstrate how we are working from the ground up, with partners across our value chain and industry, to help solve today’s food and agriculture challenges and build a resilient future.”

General Mills was one of the first companies to publish a full value chain goal approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) in 2015. Five years later, it launched its new climate goals, aligned with the 1.5C guidance from the SBTi.

The new plan confirms that General Mills has conducted its first climate risk assessment and that it is in the process of revising science-based targets to incorporate the recent Forest, Land and Agriculture Guidance (FLAG) guidance.

In 2023, General Mills reduced total value chain emissions by 7% and further reduced Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 12% compared to the previous year. Since 2020, Scope 1 and 2 emissions have been reduced by 51%. General Mills notes that almost half of the company’s emissions occur upstream of its direct operations, in agriculture, ingredients and packaging.

Climate levers

The Climate Transition Plan outlines key goals and actions to achieve by 2030 and 2050 respectively. Short-term goals having zero deforestation in palm, cocoa and fiber supply chains by 2025, having all packaging recyclable or reusable by 2030, increasing low-carbon fuels and electrification for transport  and advancing supplier engagement and “whole-farm dairy principles” to tackle Scope 3 emissions.

In 2023, General Mills launched a collaborative endeavor to encourage the adoption of regenerative agriculture on approximately 600,000 acres in the US by 2030. This builds on a corporate goal to have one million acres enrolled in such practices by 2030. The Plan has revealed that more than 500,000 acres have been engaged in regenerative agriculture programs to date.

Additionally, a goal to source 100% renewable electricity for its global operations by 2030 currently sits at 97%.

Long-term aspirations for 2050 include scaling regenerative agriculture, switching to renewables across the supply chain, introducing more circular business models for packaging, and scaling decarbonisation across transport and farms.

The Transition Plan also outlines the company’s stance on carbon offsets. It states there is a “need for a strong carbon offset market to move us closer to achieving our planetary goals” but that at this time it “remains focused” on reducing emissions. General Mills will “revisit high quality offsets” once short-term targets have been met.

Climate Transition Plans

Thousands of firms across the globe have committed to transformational, science-based targets, but many have little idea as to how they will reach net-zero over the next 20 or 30 years. It is here where transition plans become crucial.

Climate Transition plans are viewed as a framework to help bridge the gap between these long-term ambitions and tangible actions that can help deliver net-zero and climate targets.

The UK Government commissioned the creation of a Transition Plan Taskforce (TPT) – a body to determine what a credible corporate transition plan for climate should look like – in 2021.

Last October, the jewel in the crown of the TPT’s work, its pan-industry ‘gold standard’ framework, was published.

The Task Force has recommended that corporates publish plans, and then an update in 2026. In 2024 and 2025, information material to the plan should be included in financial reporting. Advice has also been provided on what, exactly, the plans should cover.

Last week the TPT published new guidance for seven sectors, including key sectors such as mining and asset management.

The TPT guidance is aligned with disclosure practices developed by the International Sustainability Standards Board, which encourages firms to publicly disclose transition plans if they have one.

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