As we hoped, the past week in New York produced a number of impressive commitments from companies pledging to take climate change seriously. Nine Fortune 500 companies pledged to go 100 percent renewable in their energy use. Five more global companies pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and the United Nations adopted a new set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Companies are already lining up to use these new goals as a roadmap to progressing on a whole host of sustainability issues.
I had a chance to talk to Barry Parkin, Chief Sustainability Officer at Mars, Inc. about how the company’s recent accomplishments and how they plan to respond to the new UN Goals. It turns out Mars has already put together a comprehensive list of responses to all 17 which is explained briefly in the image below (click for a full sized PDF).
Parkin explained to me that the CSO position at Mars has been in place for about two and a half years and originally evolved out of concern for working and environmental conditions in Mars’ supply chain – especially in cocoa (a very logical place to start). It has since grown to encompass a spectrum of issues from energy to working conditions. Although not all of the UN’s 17 goals are immediately material to Mars’ business, Parkin sees all Mars’ efforts as complimentary to them all in one way or another.
For example, working directly with cocoa farmers to increase yields on plantations not only results in more income for farmers, but it also reduces the incentive to deforest neighboring land – with obvious environmental benefits. More income for farmers means education, opportunity, and sustainable economic growth and of course, a reliable supply chain for Mars and other chocolate producers. The results mean progress on many of the UN’s goals at the same time. Climate change was the big issue of the week and is the heart of Mars’ stated commitment to 100 percent renewable energy, starting with one of their biggest accomplishments – powering all of their U.S. operations with wind.
Using the UN Goals as a roadmap is a logical way to realize the connectivity of a company’s sustainability efforts – to see how they pay off in ways one might not expect and, hopefully, to mark progress.