General Mills company sign outside of company facility.

General Mills shareholders have voted to ask the company to report on if and how the company can reduce plastic packaging. | melissamn/Shutterstock

A majority of General Mills investors voted in favor of a proposal asking the company to reduce its use of plastic packaging and issue a report on it.

According to a Green Century press release, on Sept. 27, 55% of General Mills shareholders voted to ask the company to issue a report “to determine if and how the company can increase the scale, pace and rigor of its sustainability efforts by reducing plastic packaging.”

“The bottom line is that companies know they need to cut plastic, and many are starting to act,” said Annie Sanders, Green Century’s director of shareholder advocacy, in the press release. “This majority vote from shareholders gives General Mills marching orders to establish a baseline plastic footprint so the company can assess what’s possible. Investors, consumers and the planet demand it.”

General Mills had urged shareholders to vote against the proposal, saying it is “advancing its recyclable packaging ambition through strategies that best fit our product portfolio while maintaining the safety, nutrition and quality of our products.”

“Given the publicly available, annually updated reporting on our sustainable packaging progress, the food safety challenges posed by post-consumer recycled plastic in food contact packaging, and our strong record of leadership and innovation in the packaging space, shareholders would not benefit from the proposed report or its implied strategy adjustment,” the company stated.

General Mills also pointed to its 2019 goal that 100% of General Mills brand packaging by weight be designed to be recyclable or reusable by 2030. In 2021, 89% of its global packaging was recyclable or reusable.

The shareholder proposal argued that General Mills may be vulnerable to changing regulatory landscapes if it does not decrease plastic use, as several states have now passed extended producer responsibility laws for packaging. It also noted that competitors like Mondelez, Conagra and Kraft Heinz have set or committed to set plastic reduction goals.

“Kellogg is a signatory to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Global Commitment, through which it will also be required to set a plastic reduction goal,” the proposal said. “Despite the business risks and broad societal impact, General Mills has no quantitative goal or timeline for reducing its plastic packaging use.”

Several other companies have faced non-binding shareholder resolutions on plastic reduction in the past year.

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