General Mills Honored with Keystone Founders Award

Last night, the Keystone Policy Center hosted its 23rd annual awards dinner in Washington, D.C. The event honors leaders in government, business and civil society who exemplify Keystone’s mission “to inspire leaders to rise above entrenched positions to reach common higher ground.” As a member and past co-chair of Keystone’s board of trustees, I am inspired each year by our award winners. This year, I had the privilege to award Ken Powell, General Mills Chairman and CEO, with the Keystone Policy Center’s Founders Award. The award recognizes exemplary leaders who embody Keystone’s belief that lasting results are best achieved by considering diverse perspectives and building consensus. Honorees are selected for their leadership, vision, problem-solving skills, and efforts to seek collaborative solutions to challenging issues. At a time when too many leaders seek to build their influence by dividing people and polarizing issues, Ken Powell and General Mills stand out for their collaborative approach to solving global problems, especially around sustainability and the environment. They see sustainability as a priority for two reasons: because they need to protect the natural resources — like water, soil, wheat and oats — on which their business depends, and because it’s the right thing to do. As the world prepared for the historic UN climate summit in Paris last year, General Mills announced its plan to reduce absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent by 2025 across the company’s entire value chain – from farm to fork to landfill. The goal is based on science and has real teeth. Quietly – as you might expect from a company based in the Midwest – General Mills has become one of America’s corporate leaders on sustainability. Under Ken’s leadership, General Mills has worked with environmental groups, customers and other food companies to reduce its environmental footprint. My organization, The Nature Conservancy, has worked with General Mills to analyze the company’s water risks and develop collaborative solutions for water management in key watersheds, from the San Joaquin Valley in California to the cities of Shanghai and Beijing in China. In California, we are working together to help local communities make smart, science-based decisions about how to manage their water resources in the face of that state’s historic drought conditions. In Idaho, a key wheat growing region for General Mills and an area with scarce water resources, we are working with farmers and local partners to improve soil and water management practices and to reduce groundwater declines. General Mills and the Conservancy are members of Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, a coalition originally convened by Keystone. Field to Market enables General Mills to work closely with hundreds of farmers and provides a cornerstone of General Mills’ climate commitment and its goal to source 100 percent of 10 priority ingredients sustainably by 2020. The Conservancy and General Mills are now pursuing opportunities for improvements in agricultural practices to turn farming from a carbon source to a carbon sink and deliver reductions in greenhouse gases needed to keep global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius. In these and other ways, General Mills demonstrates its commitment to making decisions that are not only good for business, but can also improve the environment. From turning leftover whey into natural gas at a Yoplait facility in Canada, to generating electricity from wastewater at a Haagen-Dazs facility in France or from oat hulls at a General Mills facility in Minnesota, their efforts show that companies can be part of the solution for reducing environmental impact. With Ken at the helm and placing a high priority on the environment over the past decade at General Mills, he is a deserving recipient of this year’s Keystone Founders Award. By: Glenn Prickett Chief External Affairs Officer for The Nature Conservancy and Member of The Keystone Policy Center’s Board of Trustees