The Challenge – Protecting Fresh Water
Water, the most precious resource on our planet, is a local phenomenon defined by the supply, demand and quality of water within a watershed. At General Mills, water is a critical resource for the company’s manufacturing operations, and for its supply chains. It is essential to the company and to the well-being of the communities and ecosystems where it operates. General Mills understands that good water stewardship is good for business and accepts the responsibility to be a leader in understanding and protecting the watersheds it depends on.
The Nature Conservancy and General Mills began working together in January 2012 to develop a three-part freshwater strategy:
- First, an assessment of all watersheds the company depends on (about 60 world-wide) will be conducted to determine the health of each.
- Second, a deeper analysis and conservation plan will be developed for each watershed found to be at risk.
- Third, the Conservancy and General Mills will share findings with the local communities in the at-risk watersheds by meeting with large water users, government officials and interested community members to discuss possible conservation strategies and to encourage collaboration and on-the-ground action.
Solutions in Action
Irapuato is a city in the middle of the El Bajio growing region, one of Mexico’s most important agricultural areas, and a center for General Mills’ Green Giant vegetable production.
Agriculture in the region is dependent on underground aquifers that are threatened by over-use. The Conservancy analyzed the situation and identified several opportunities to slow the use of this water resource and protect it for the future. Together, the Conservancy and General Mills met with over 70 Irapuato business, government and community leaders to share this learning and to begin the process of working together to save this freshwater resource.
A Sustainable Future
Moving forward, General Mills and the Conservancy will complete the watershed assessment, develop stewardship plans for other threatened watersheds and meet with at-risk communities to provide leadership and on-the-ground action.
General Mills’ freshwater stewardship approach represents a model the Conservancy is now expanding to other large water using companies. It’s a good example of how the Conservancy is taking its freshwater work to a global scale through relationships with corporate leaders.