One year on: What has Mars' new $1bn sustainability strategy achieved so far?

Food and drink giant Mars has revealed the progress it has made towards the aims of its new $1bn Sustainable in a Generation Strategy, which notably saw the company adopt science-based emissions targets last year.

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

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

With a headline target of a 67% reduction in emissions across Mars’ value chain by 2050, the strategy was introduced last September in a bid to “drastically expand" on the company’s previous carbon goals and fix "broken" global supply chains. The plan also includes targets to eliminate water use in excess of “sustainable levels” in its value chain and improve the working lives of one million people that it sources from.

A year on from the plan’s launch, Mars this week revealed that it has achieved zero-waste-to-landfill status across its direct operations while reducing its Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 10%.

The achievements were detailed in the company’s Sustainable in a Generation 2017-2018 report, which was released on Tuesday (18 September) and also documents the progress Mars is making towards sustainable sourcing targets.

The firm is now sourcing 96% of its rice from farmers using the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) standard as it strives to source only rice, seafood, fish and cocoa from certified sources by 2020, the report notes. For fish and seafood, the company has achieved 57% certified, while the proportion stands at 47% for cocoa.

Mars’ chief procurement and sustainability officer Barry Parkin said the first year of the plan’s implementation had seen the company begin to “transform” its supply chains for raw materials, with action set to be “significantly” scaled up in the next few years.

“This first year for us has been about accelerating what is already working starting with the transformation of our raw material supply chain, building critical partnerships and testing new approaches,” Parkin said.

“I believe we’re seeing the end of the commodities era, where materials used to be sourced from largely-unknown origins and bought purely for price on a transactional basis. The future will require sourcing from known origins, and in many cases, known farms, with price and sustainability impacts evaluated side by side and generally from longer-term partnerships with fewer suppliers.”

Parkins’ comments come after Mars’ chief executive Grant Reid told delegates at the Global Client Action Summit in San Francisco that he was “deeply invested” in changing the company’s business models to drive greater sustainability.

“We continue to see a range of issues facing our global community – including climate change, poverty, obesity and water stress,” Reid said. “Incremental improvement will not be enough. We must take action together.”

Climate challenges

While Mars’ new report details strong progress towards sustainable sourcing, it also reveals that the company is off-track to meet its 2025 emissions reduction target, after the company’s absolute GHG emissions rose by 0.7% year-on-year.

With Scope 1 and 2 (direct) emissions down 10% on 2015 levels, the increase was driven by a rise the firm's Scope 3 (indirect) emissions, including transportation of goods, business trips, employee commuting and supply chain emissions. 

Mars attributed this increase to the growth of the business and claimed in the report that progress was likely to gather pace as more renewable energy projects come online between 2018-2019.

The report also claims that Mars is “just beginning” to source raw materials in a way likely to minimise its overall carbon footprint, such as sourcing from areas with low deforestation risks and working with suppliers to produce ingredients more efficiently.

Elsewhere, the report notes that Mars’ 2025 goal of halving “unsustainable” water use across its value chain, against a 2015 baseline, is in need of accelerated action. The company recorded a 16% year-on-year increase in its value chain water footprint.

Mars said in a statement that it had experienced a “slight increase” in the use of water across the water-stressed region where it operates over the past 12 months, adding that it would work to improve the metrics it uses to monitor water stewardship to make more informed purchasing decisions in the future.

Sarah George


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