General Mills Falls to Bottom of Oxfam List: Food Companies Like Nestle Create Less Mess

Feb 26, 2014 10:33 AM EST | By Ian Powell

According to the Chicago Tribune's report on a story from Reuters, a study by Oxfam developmental group has shown increased corporate responsibility by food companies, who are making less of a mess in third world countries. Oxfam launched their "Behind the Brand" study last year to raise awareness and investigate food companies' environmental and social impact on poorer nations.

It was discovered that those who had led the charts in corporate responsibility, such as Nestle, Coca-Cola, and Unilever, had only gone to further their lead in responsibility. The Associated British Foods company had been in last place for least responsible, until it was usurped by General Mills this year. 

The study was said to have been impacted by consumers, who supported the campaign and let the big companies know they wouldn't stand for anything but improvement. The Oxfam campaign was also helped by 31 investment funds, who had over 1.5 trillion dollars in assets backing the developmental group.

The rankings were based on their policies in areas Oxfam saw as critical to sustainable agriculture: water, land, climate change, women, small-scale farmers, farm workers, and transparency. Transparency cost General Mills points, as it reduced its information on its water policies from the year before. 

The biggest improvements were seen in the companies' policies on gender issues, land and climate change. Chris Jochnick, the director of Oxfam's private sector work, believes these improvements started as a response to change, but turned out to be beneficial for the mega-corporations. "What initially sparks companies' attention is reputational concern but as they dig into these issues they have started to find financial reasons to do the right thing."

The companies studied have annual revenues of over 450 billion dollars, which is more than the total of the national income of all of the third world countries combined, meaning these big businesses make more profit than entire nations.  

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