Kimberly A. Nelson, General Mills Foundation

Kimberly A. Nelson

Serving the World
by Making Food
that People Love

Editors’ Note

Kim Nelson assumed her Senior Vice President, External Relations role in September 2010, and leadership of the foundation in June 2011. Previously, she was Senior Vice President/President of the General Mills Snacks Unlimited division. Nelson has been a corporate officer of General Mills since 2000. Her career spans leadership roles for brands including Cheerios, Yoplait, Nature Valley, Wheaties, Helper, Old El Paso, and Chex Mix. Nelson has an M.B.A. from Columbia University and a B.S. from Georgetown University.

Company Brief

General Mills (generalmills.com) is one of the world’s leading food companies, operating in more than 100 countries around the world. Its brands include Cheerios, Fiber One, Haagen-Dazs, Nature Valley, Yoplait, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Old El Paso, Wanchai Ferry, Yoki, and more. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, General Mills had fiscal 2015 worldwide sales of US $18.7 billion, including the company’s US $1.1 billion proportionate share of joint-venture net sales.

What are the key areas of focus for the General Mills Foundation?

We focus on hunger and nutrition wellness, on improving education particularly in our hometown markets, and on strengthening communities. We have also been a major funder of United Way for many years.

Beyond our actual giving, General Mills employees are actively involved in volunteer opportunities through the foundation. For example, we have employees engaged in food bank networks, in volunteering to read to children, and sitting on nonprofit boards throughout the Twin Cities.

The other thing that is unique about our community engagement is our focus on skills-based volunteerism.

Does the foundation’s work align with General Mills’ business?

It is absolutely aligned. We are a very purpose-driven company, and have been for many years. We recently restated our company purpose as, “We serve the world by making food that people love.”

Serving the communities where we do business is ingrained in our ethos and really resonates with our employees.

What does sustainability mean to General Mills?

Sustainability is the notion of protecting and preserving the resources that we use to run our business, so they are there for future generations. As a food company, it’s essential that we are actively engaging to reduce our environmental footprint, because we need these resources.

Are the opportunities available to women today in the workforce and how important is having a diverse employee base for General Mills?

General Mills is a national leader in making these opportunities available. The company invests in talent by providing job training and leadership developmental opportunities. We know that creating an inclusive environment is a key way to drive innovation and different thinking, as well as stronger business results.

Today, we have three women on our board and at least half of our U.S. operating divisions are run by women.

My personal experience as a black woman at the company has been extraordinary. I came up through the ranks, starting as a marketing assistant in our cereal division. At every turn, I was provided opportunities to lead large businesses and show that I could drive differential results. It sounds pretty basic, but companies need to be willing to invest in diverse talent and prepare them for critical assignments – and then actually put them in the roles.•