As the current presidential administration seeks to reverse all and any policies enacted during the Obama years, businesses have made it clear that they will fill in the vacuum, whether the problems are related to immigration, race relations or climate change. The questions that arise, of course, include: just how big are these challenges and are they even remotely achievable?
To that end, Grant Reid, CEO of the food giant Mars Inc., has stepped into the climate debate with a warning to the business community that turning away from the Paris global climate agreement and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been “nowhere near enough.” Reid made his comments as business and government leaders arrive in New York for the UN’s General Assembly and Climate Week.
Reid and Mars say they are backing up their words with action as the company promises to invest approximately $1 billion in its “Sustainable in a Generation Plan.” The program lasers in on three areas where the $33 billion says it can foster the changes Reid says are necessary on some of the world’s largest challenges, as defined by the SDGs. In sum, Mars says its evolved sustainability agenda is about people, the planet and . . . people’s health.
When it comes to the planet, Mars’ focus on environmental sustainability is hardly new. In recent years, the company insists it has bolstered its anti-deforestation policy, while its United Kingdom operations reportedly run 100 percent on clean energy technologies such as wind power. On this side of the pond, Mars says its renewables portfolio in the U.S. is now enough to offset the company’s power needs to make all of its M&M’s in the U.S. And in the next several years, Mars says it will focus even more on issues such as climate action, water stewardship and land management. Furthermore, the company has a long-term goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions across its entire value chain by 67 percent by 2050 – a considerable expansion of its GHG goals made in previous years.
Like any multinational, Mars has a complicated supply chain that crosses many borders. The company said it is working on fine-tuning the traceability of many of its ingredients, including palm oil and cacao. Now Mars says it will build upon its efforts to improve the lives of smallholder farmers by including one million people in its long term plan to boost incomes, improve its human rights performance and open up more opportunities for women. Examples of this work include the launch of the Livelihoods Fund for Family Farming to accelerate sustainability and poverty reduction across its supply chains as well as the Farmer Income Lab, which the company describes as a “think-do tank” focused on eradicating smallholder poverty.
Finally, Mars is working on widening its portfolio of more nourishing foods. Its “Nourishing Wellbeing” program seeks to integrate science, innovation and marketing in an attempt to reach out to billions of people – and incidentally, their pets as well. This builds upon the company’s efforts on what it says are a focus on food safety and security.
In a public statement, Barry Parkin, Chief Sustainability and Health and Wellbeing Officer of Mars said:
“We know we cannot grow and prosper unless the planet, people and communities on which we rely are healthy and thriving. Doing what’s right, not just doing better, is at the very core of our new plan. It’s about pushing the boundaries and extending our bold ambitions across our extended supply chain. When we do that, and when others join us, only then will we have the greatest impact.”