In the global effort to limit climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), the energy and transportation sectors are the most obvious targets, but perhaps not the biggest. Consider the food business. Agriculture alone produces up to 35% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions (and uses 70% of the water).
By some estimates, humanity may need to produce as much food in the next 40 years as it did in the last 8,000. And that can’t happen if we don’t get the carbon and water footprint of agriculture under control. Because of this, food giants like Kellogg and General Mills are getting serious about emissions.
Deciding which food manufacturing company to support can be a tough decision, so we’ve tried to break down two of the more known chains and what your purchase will support.
Why you should trust us
At Ethically, we compile scores from over 700 verified sources to create a granular profile of more than 10,000 companies and brands, evaluating their impact on the environment, society at large, and good business. You can learn more about Ethically’s process in our Methodology and you can see the scores yourself by downloading the Ethically browser extension.
The Kellogg Company, doing business as Kellogg’s, is an American multinational food manufacturing company headquartered in Battle Creek, Michigan, United States. Kellogg’s produces cereal and convenience foods, including crackers and toaster pastries and markets their products by several well known brands including Corn Flakes, Frosted Flakes, Pringles, Eggo, and Cheez-It. Kellogg’s mission statement is “Nourishing families so they can flourish and thrive.”
General Mills, Inc., is an American multinational manufacturer and marketer of branded consumer foods sold through retail stores. It is headquartered in Golden Valley, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. Often nicknamed “Big G”, the company markets many well-known North American brands, including Gold Medal flour, Annie’s Homegrown, Betty Crocker, Yoplait, Colombo, Totino’s, Pillsbury, Old El Paso, Häagen-Dazs, Cheerios, Trix, Cocoa Puffs, and Lucky Charms.
These two companies, while often compared side by side, are close when it comes to ESG measurements but there are some key differences that put one above the other.
Overall, Kellogg scored a 60/100 and General Mills scored a 64/100. General Mills’s score advantage over Kellogg’s is highlighted in the three score categories but the widest difference is seen in the environment category.
Let’s dive in (Reminder, check out our Methodology for definitions on each of these subtopic scores)
Impact on the environment
Impact on the environment relates to how a company or brand impacts the natural world around us. This could be related to the products they create, their manufacturing policies, or even their corporate response to climate change. Kellog and General Mills both impact the environment in a number of ways, from their manufacturing policies to the products they produce. Below are more details comparing these two companies.
General Mills has a significant point advantage over Kellogg in this category, with the scores being 70 to 65. This category has to do with the companies’ compliance with environmental regulations, energy efficient operations and development of renewable energy and alternative environmental technologies.
Double clicking on that score difference, Kellogg scored a 68/100 in Energy & Climate Change, a 68/100 in Environment Policy & Reporting and a 60/100 in Resource Management. On the other hand, General Mills scored a 76/100 in Energy & Climate Change, a 69/100 in Environment Policy & Reporting and a 66/100 in Resource Management.
Impact on social responsibility
Social responsibility includes all the things that make a company “good”. Whether that’s giving back to the community, standing up for equal rights, treating workers fairly. Kellogg and General Mills both have a number of policies around LGBTQ+ rights, community outreach, and equal pay and rights for all.
Another score distinction can be noted within the Social Responsibility category, where Kellogg scores a 60/100 and General Mills scores a 67/100. This category includes all programs, policies and performance in diversity, labor relations and labor rights. It also focuses on compensation and benefits as well as employee safety.
The major differences were the respective companies’ Diversity and Labor rights rankings Kellogg: 61 vs. General Mills: 68, Training, Health & Safety rankings Kellogg: 63 vs. General Mills: 69 and Compensation with Kellogg: 56 vs. General Mills: 65 score.
Quality of corporate governance
Corporate governance is much like social responsibility, but for how the company operates internally. Do they have a diverse board? Is there transparency in accounting? Are they doing what they need to do to survive and operate in an ethical and correct manner? Kellogg and General Mills both are large public companies with shareholders and boards they answer to.
The score with the slightest distinction is observed within the Governance category, where Kellogg scores a 57/100 and General Mills scores a 59/100. The Governance score refers to leadership structure and the values that determine corporate direction, ethics and performance.
The major differences were the respective companies’ Board rankings Kellogg: 57 vs. General Mills: 58, Leadership Ethics Kellogg: 57 vs. General Mills: 58 and Transparency & Reporting with Kellogg: 56 vs. General Mills: 59 score.
Ethically partners with CSRHub as a primary data source, which in turn, aggregates over 700 data sources, compiling them into simple, easy to digest grades.
General Mill’s score is a few points above Kellogg’s. The biggest differences are seen in the Environment and Social Responsibility categories. General Mills will cut absolute GHGs by 28% by 2025 “across the entire value chain.” By 2050 it will slash emissions up to 72%, with the exact number TBD, but at a pace that will keep them “in line with scientific consensus.” Kellogg’s 2050 target is to cut its own and supplier emissions by 65% and 50% respectively.
As consumers of the food products these companies manufacture, we must continue to hold these entities responsible for how they treat their employees and how their productions affect our environment. If you’re a Kellogg’s advocate and want to see more evidence that they’re committed to these areas, email our CEO at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know. We’d love to hear from you.
If you want to stay up to date on how these companies are progressing with their scores, make sure you download Ethically. We pull data regularly to make sure our scores reflect how companies are doing today, not years ago.
As always, please check out our Methodology page for more details on how we get our ratings data.