Mars launches new climate action initiative, commits to 1.5C science-based targets

Mars has invested almost $1bn in a string of measures aimed at transforming its approach to corporate sustainability

Mars originally set science-based targets for its in-house emissions in 2009 and built on these ambitions in 2017 with the launch of its flagship sustainability strategy ‘Sustainable in a Generation’. Backed by $1bn of investment from the multinational, the strategy’s original aims were a 27% reduction in Mars’ absolute value chain emissions by 2025, rising to 67% by 2050 – both against a 2007 baseline. These goals were aligned with a 2C pathway.

Today (23 September), Mars has bolstered its 2025 target and will now strive to reduce emissions from its direct operations by 42%. While this target has not been approved by the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), Mars claims it is in line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C scenario.

The alteration of the 2025 target forms part of a new initiative aimed at garnering “collective action” on climate challenges, called ‘Pledge For Planet’.

Under the campaign, Mars is calling on its suppliers to develop their own science-based targets and to switch to 100% renewable electricity by joining The Climate Group’s RE100 initiative. Olam, one of the firm’s largest cocoa suppliers, has said it will make these moves.

Mars has notably met the 100% renewables mark for electricity used across its operations in the US, UK and Mexico, with its Australian arm soon set to reach this milestone.

‘Pledge for Planet’ also includes measures to engage Mars’ staff and shoppers with climate action. The firm has worked with influencers, content creators and the UN to develop a communications campaign aimed at encouraging people to make individual and collective changes to minimise their environmental impact – including a pop-up mural in Bryant Park, New York, where visitors can write their own commitments.

As for staff, they will be encouraged to use a digital tool, modelled after the UN’s ActNow Climate “bot”, which teaches them about the lifestyle choices they can make to minimise their carbon footprint.

“Climate change is a real and tangible threat to society; for example, in our business, we already see it in the risk to livelihoods for smallholder farmers who provide most of our raw ingredients,” Mars’ chief executive Grant F. Reid said.

“Risks to the resiliency and sustainability of our supply chain and the future of the farmers we work with is top of mind. But, as a family business that thinks in generations and aspires to make a positive difference in the world, our responsibilities and our ambitions go beyond risk mitigation.”

Science-based surge

Made at the UN Climate Summit, Mars’ new commitments come shortly after a string of other big-name corporates pledged to set emissions goals in line with 1.5C.

The companies, convened by the UN Global Compact and the We Mean Business Coalition, represent a combined global market capitalisation of more than $2.3trn and more than 4.2 million employees. They include the likes of L’Oreal, Inter Ikea Group and Nestle.

Since the IPCC published its special report on global warming last year, outlining the difference between a 1.5C and 2C pathway in terms of biodiversity, human health and economic impacts, more and more businesses have been engaging with the 1.5C agenda.

Earlier this year, 23 firms committed to answer the We Mean Business Coalition’s call to set SBTi-approved 1.5C goals within the next 24 months, including Unilever, AstraZeneca and Vodafone Group. Other corporates, including En+ Group and ITV are targeting approval outside of this scheme.

BT, Tesco, Carlsberg, Pukka Herbs, Molson Coors and Burberry are among the companies to have already received approval for their 1.5C goals – but, in order to grow this cohort further, the SBTi recently updated its target validation criteria and resource package for businesses.

Sarah George

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie