A few months ago, Mars, Incorporated, owner of popular candy brands such as M&Ms, Twix, and Skittles, as well as brands such as Pedigree pet foods and Uncle Ben’s rice, made a public commitment to spend $1B to help fight climate change and make its supply chain more sustainable for the future . This comes on the heels of a 2013 report by Oxfam (a global organization that evaluates and reports on social injustice all over the world), which cited Mars as having the lowest ratings for water and land issues, among the world’s 10 largest food producers. These low ratings were due to Mars’ “lack of knowledge of its environmental impact, as well as for its supplier policies” . This provides an interesting opportunity because of the 10 largest global food producers, Mars is the only privately owned . Mars’ commitment to addressing climate change issues by adjusting its supply chain, is a chance for a global business to demonstrate that it can still be profitable and a responsible member of the global community. Being private allows Mars the time to experiment with different methods and find the path to responsible profitability, without facing the pressures from shareholders or equity markets.
To address the issue, Mars’ management made a commitment to science-based solutions. In 2016, The World Resources Institute (WRI) announced it had partnered with experts at Mars to develop science-based targets for Mars’ land, water, and climate impacts . Partnering with WRI was key because it helped develop solutions that would be supported by Mars top management and still impact the issues. WRI did this by presenting goals in a streamlined manner for top executives, focusing on the source of land and water impacts, addressing impacts to the value chain, and searching for synergies .
Mars already supports 100% of its operations in five countries (including the US and UK) with renewable energy , and will increase the total to 11 countries by next year . Mars set and met a goal to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions by 20% and decreased its total global water use by 18% in 2015 . By 2020, Mars will reduce emissions an additional 20%, make a 15% water improvement across its manufacturing facilities, and has set the goal to reduce emissions 100% by 2040 .
Mars was also heavily involved in establishing the CocoaAction coalition through the World Cocoa Foundation . As of 2014, 12 companies across the globe, including an additional global leader in Nestlé, had committed to CocoaAction. The coalition plans to build “a rejuvenated and economically viable cocoa sector, for no fewer than 300,000 cocoa farmers and the communities where they live, by 2020” . The coalition focuses on the farmers and crops of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, which produce 55% of the world’s cocoa, and is committed to education and practices that will help fix unproductive orchards and declining soil fertility. The supply chain has caused this ecosystem to be stretched to its limits over the years, and with an increasing world population and demand for cocoa on the horizon, these communities could experience devastating consequences if the problems are not fixed .
Despite the commendable efforts and response by Mars, it cannot fix the problem on its own. Even with the help of Nestlé and other major chocolate producers, there is still a tremendous amount of support needed by businesses across the globe to impact climate change. With policies in countries across the globe being enacted to reverse the efforts to control and reduce climate change, it would appear the world is not trending in the right direction to fix this problem. The biggest effort Mars can take in the near term to help impact this issue is to see these initiatives through, and to capture data for the effects they are having. In the medium term, however, Mars will have to take the step to prove this is economically viable to corporations. Being a private company, Mars does not have to show its financial statements to anyone and can afford to take losses to make these things happens. Publicly traded companies do not have that same luxury and will be unlikely to get shareholder support for programs that make their companies unprofitable.
To that end, the questions remain: will Mars be able to prove that these initiatives are economically viable, and will they be willing to disclose the financial documentation to prove it? Additionally, will Mars be able to prove with scientific data that their efforts positively impacted the environments in which they operate, and that these improvements were not caused by other random or unexplained phenomena?
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- Alexander E.M. Hess, “Companies That Control The World’s Food,” 24/7 Wall St., August 15, 2014 [http://247wallst.com/special-report/2014/08/15/companies-that-control-the-worlds-food/3/], accessed November 2017
- Oscar Williams-Grut, “’We’re trying to go all in’: Chocolate giant Mars pledges $1 billion to fight climate change,” Business Insider, September 6, 2017 [http://www.businessinsider.com/mars-climate-change-investment-global-warming-sustainability-plan-greenhouse-gas-2017-9], accessed November 2017
- Samantha Putt del Pino, “How Mars and WRI Developed Science-based Sustainability Targets for Climate, Land, Water,” World Resources Institute, October 19, 2016 [http://www.wri.org/blog/2016/10/how-mars-and-wri-developed-science-based-sustainability-targets-climate-land-water], accessed November 2017
- Mars, Incorporated, “Climate Action,” http://www.mars.com/global/sustainable-in-a- generation/healthy-planet/climate-action, accessed November 2017
- Mars, Incorporated, “Water Impacts,” http://www.mars.com/global/sustainable-in-a-generation/healthy-planet/water-impact, accessed November 2017
- World Cocoa Foundation, “CocoaAction Frequently Asked Questions” (PDF File), downloaded from World Cocoa Foundation website [www.worldcocoafoundation.org], accessed November 14, 2017.