CACAO – A DELICATE BALANCE
Cacao trees only grow within a narrow band 10 degrees either side of the equator, with 70% of global production coming from a handful of countries spread around the Gulf of Guinea and known as the West African Cacao Belt . To thrive, these trees require stable temperatures along with high humidity and rainfall. As global temperatures have risen, rainfall in the region has fallen down -30% in the last 50 years, causing a negative knock-on effect for humidity too .
The environmental outlook in the region is not optimistic, with climate forecasters predicting a warming of 3.8 F (2.1 degrees C) in across the region by 2050 (1) which is projected to drastically reduce the areas currently suitable for cocoa tree cultivation (see Fig. 1). Overall, areas currently with a suitability >50% are forecast to halve by 2050, thus potentially wiping out almost a third of global cacao bean production in the process.
HIGHER TEMPERATURES, LOWER PROFITS
It is therefore unsurprising that Mars Inc., the world’s largest chocolate manufacturer, is visibly stepping up efforts to combat climate change, given that the “extreme concentration of the production of a commodity in one geographical region makes the global industry highly vulnerable to a regional decline in climatic suitability” .
In unveiling their “Sustainable in a Generation Plan” , Mars Inc. are planting their stake in the ground to ensure that their sweet, billion dollar empire, built over the last 106 years, continues to bear fruit. The question of whether their public commitment, opposing withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement  and declaring that “as a food business, [their] supply chain and those who work in it are threatened by [climate change’s] impacts”, exceeds their private intent, is yet to be answered but steps in the right direction are visible.
In its 2015 Climate Action Position Statement, Mars estimated that Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions in its value chain were equivalent to 26.2 million tons of Carbon Dioxide. Aiming to reduce this in the long term, Mars committed set out the following goals :
- Reducing Total GHG emissions by -27% (vs. 2015 levels) by 2025
- Reducing GHG emissions linked to operations to zero by 2025
- Reducing Total GHG emissions by -67% (vs. 2015 levels) by 2050
In the short term, Mars aims to invest over $1 Billion over the next 2-3 years to tackle three key areas :
- Achieve stronger water stewardship and more efficient land management
- Increase income to improve the lives of 1 million people in their supply chain
- Advance science, innovation and research into food production
The issue remains to be seen whether these long term goals will be achieved, and the vagueness with which Mars has set out its short term plans begs for a much more detailed roadmap of clear actions.
There are several concrete steps which Mars could take to further their efforts immediately:
- Achieving the highest LEED certification  across all of their production plants and office across the US and achieving similar credential in production sites outside of the US
- Promote conservation practices across the agricultural segment of their supply chain which accounts for 46% of their GHG emissions 
- Move away from sourcing certain raw materials in tropical countries under risk of deforestation, by investing in synthetic or local replacements
- Declare the split of emissions by country in which it operates in and report annually on progress made to cut local production emissions
TESTING SCALEABILITY AND LONG TERM COMMITMENT
For Mars, the future of Cacao trees in West Africa, and therefore the future of their entire chocolate business is on the line. Having understood what is at stake, they are taking action, and this should be applauded.
However, it must be noted that while Mars’ promises are certainly a move in the right direction, their total GHG emissions are equivalent to those of a small central American country like Panama . Thus their pledge will remain largely insignificant unless entire industries step up to combat climate change to the same extent.
Furthermore, one might also wonder if these goals will retain their important to Mars regardless of economic conditions. A downward shift in their business in the next 35 years could truly test Mars’ commitment to what they have set out to achieve. If tougher times arrives, will they continue to invest in reducing GHG out of their supply chain, or will they fold under shareholder pressure to deliver bottom line growth regardless of future consequences?
 Michon Scott, “Climate and Chocolate” National Climate and Atmospheric Administration, February 10, 2016, https://www.climate.gov/news-features/climate-and/climate-chocolate, accessed November 2017
 Götz Schroth, Peter Läderach, Armando Isaac, Martinez Valle, Christian Bunn, Laurence Jassognec, “Vulnerability to climate change of cocoa in West Africa: Patterns, opportunities and limits to adaptation” Science of the Total Environment, Vol. 556, June 15, 2016, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969716304508, accessed November 2017
 Mars Inc. Corporate Communications, “Unveiling our Sustainable in A Generation Plan” Mars Inc. website, September 5, 2017, http://www.mars.com/global/press-center/newsroom/unveiling-our-sustainable-in-a-generation-plan, accessed November 2017
 Jamiles Lartey, “’Climate change is real’: companies challenge Trump’s reversal of policy”, The Guardian, March 29, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/29/climate-change-companies-challenge-trump-mars-staples-gap, accessed November 2017
 Mars Inc. Corporate Communications, “CLIMATE ACTION POSITION STATEMENT” Mars Inc. website, 2015, http://www.mars.com/global/about-us/policies-and-practices/climate-action-position-statement, accessed November 2017
 Corporate Communications LEED Organization, “How LEED Works” https://new.usgbc.org/leed#how-leed-works, accessed November 2017
 World Bank IBRD-IDA, “CO2 Emissions (metric tons per capita)” 2014, https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN.ATM.CO2E.PC?view=map, accessed November 2017