Mars targets ‘water balance’ at manufacturing plants facing water stress

The manufacturing sites selected by Mars are based in Mexico and are responsible for producing petcare and confectionary products for brands including Whiskas, Pedigree, M&Ms and Snickers.

At each plant, a programme of training and infrastructure upgrades will be delivered to help improve water efficiency and improve water circularity – a term Mars defines as ensuring that treated wastewater is discharged in a manner that reduces water stress for the local watershed or watersheds.

To ‘net’ the residual water use and bring each facility’s water use to the ‘water balance’ stage, Mars will forge collaborations with other organisations to launch, expand or support projects addressing water stress in the site’s catchment. One of the major projects is the Charco Bendito water stewardship programme in central Mexico, which is restoring land along waterways with the aim of boosting water regeneration.

Mars is planning to implement this approach at six further manufacturing sites in water-stressed locations in Asia and Africa, once the Mexican facilities have received support. Further sites may be identified thereafter.

By UN estimates, one-third of the population – or more than 2.5 billion people – currently live in water-stressed regions and nations. It is estimated that water scarcity could displace 700 million people by the early 2030s.

“Across the world, water availability is at a crisis point and it’s being exacerbated by the effects of climate change,” Mars’ chief executive officer Grant Reid said.

“It’s clear we all have a critical part to play in mitigating our impact on water supplies and protecting the health of global communities. 

“At Mars, this includes working to eliminate unsustainable water use across our entire value chain and taking action to ensure we mitigate the impact of our operations on high water-stressed regions.  Collaboration will be key and we’ll work with partners and local communities to deliver meaningful impact.”

Mars’ broader commitment on water is to eliminate ‘unsustainable water use’ across its operations and value chain. This is a long-term target, made under the company’s flagship ‘Sustainable in a Generation’ strategy. In the interim, there is an ambition to halve unsustainable water use by 2025, against a 2017 baseline.

To deliver against this vision, Mars has already mapped its total water use across the global supply chain. In tandem with improving water efficiency and circularity at manufacturing plants, it is training farmers to implement processes that improve water efficiency.

CEO Water Mandate

As it announced the new measures, Mars joined the CEO Water Mandate’s Water Resilience Coalition.

The Coalition was launched in spring 2020 and was set up to help corporates collaborate in order to deliver a net-positive impact on water resources throughout their value chains by 2050 at the latest, with a priority focus on water-stressed regions.

From 11 founding member companies, the Coalition has since grown to cover more than 30 businesses. Other members in the food and beverage space include AB InBev, Diageo, The Coca-Cola Company, Heineken and Danone.  

The news from Mars came shortly after PepsiCo and Facebook separately announced ambitions to become water-positive by 2030

Sarah George

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