General Mills has pledged to “sustainably source” its ten “priority” ingredients – including wheat, dairy and cocoa – by 2020.

The Cheerios cereal and Haagen-Dazs ice cream maker said yesterday (25 September) the move would create “the most long-term economic, environmental and social value”.

The ten ingredients, which also include oats, corn, fiber packaging and palm oil, represent half of General Mills’ purchases of raw material. It said it would have to pursue a “range of sustainable approaches” including certification and origin-direct investment.

The US food group has specific commitments. It said all its palm oil will be sourced from “responsible and sustainable sources” by 2015. The corn and wheat used will be from regions that “demonstrate continuous improvement against the Field-to-Market framework or comparable environmental metrics”.

Field To Market is a US-based NGO that, according to its website, is “a diverse alliance working to create opportunities across the agricultural supply chain for continuous improvements in productivity, environmental quality, and human well-being”.

General Mills chairman and CEO Ken Powell said: “Producing enough food to feed an increasingly hungry world will require not only innovation and dedication, but also careful attention to the impact of agriculture on our environment.”

The move, which will also cover vanilla, sugar cane and sugar beets, was welcomed in environmental circles.

“By understanding their environmental risks, prioritising where the company can have the greatest impact and committing to sustainable sourcing, General Mills can have a significant impact,” Dave McLaughlin, vice president of agriculture at the World Wildlife Fund, said. “The company has an opportunity to take a leading role in the move toward global sustainable agriculture, while addressing critical issues like ecosystem health and water scarcity.”