Once a pot of water is boiling, it takes less than 10 minutes to turn a box of Annie’s mac and cheese into a bowl of warm, creamy goodness. But that convenience belies a complex ongoing effort on the part of the organic food pioneer’s parent company, General Mills, to enable the product to do vastly more. The 154-year-old consumer packaged goods giant has emerged as a leading champion of regenerative farming practices, which sequester carbon in the soil rather than releasing it into the atmosphere, where it contributes to global warming.
As climate change imperils food systems around the world, disrupting the supply chains that General Mills relies on to make Cheerios cereals, Yoplait yogurts, and more, the company’s executives, looking to mitigate risk, have found themselves taking a closer look at the types of agricultural practices that trailblazing food companies like Annie’s—which the conglomerate acquired in 2014 for $820 million—have long advocated. Last year, General Mills publicly promised to “advance regenerative agricultural practices on 1 million acres of farmland by 2030.” (To put that figure in perspective, in the U.S. today there are just 5 million acres of organic farmland.) Now the company is leveraging its market power to spur change on farms both big and small. “Our business resilience depends on the health and well-being of Mother Nature,” says Mary Jane Melendez, chief sustainability and social impact officer for General Mills. “For us, it’s both a business and planetary imperative that we address [climate change], because we want to be in business for another 150 years.”
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