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Bill DiBenedetto headshot

Mars Raises the Bar in CSR

Ed note: Mars CSO Barry Parkin recently participated in a Twitter chat hosted by 3p and CSRWire to talk about its approach to sustainability. If you missed it, you can read the summary here

Mars, Incorporated is putting its CSR principles where its mouth is – through an aggressive five-pronged strategy to accomplish an ambitious agenda that’s based on quality, responsibility, mutuality, efficiency and freedom.

It’s probably a safe bet that unwrapping a Milky Way bar does not lead immediately to thoughts of a company’s commitment to freedom, for example, but that’s an essential element of the private, family-owned business’s mindset.

In its third CSR report, 2012 Principles in Action, Mars underscores its dedication to putting the Five Principles into action to make a difference to people and the planet through performance. All of which adds up to an interesting take on the 3Ps. “To lead by example, we aim to make a difference through our business performance,” the company says, “and to create a mutuality of benefits” for all stakeholders.

Mars adds that it is making progress on its goal to eliminate all greenhouse emissions by 2040 as part of its “Sustainable in a Generation” program.

“As a company, our objective is to create lasting, mutual benefits for all those involved in our business success. We strive to create positive social impacts, minimizing our environmental impacts and creating economic value,” says Paul S. Michaels, Mars' president. “In some arenas, we are making good progress; in others we have more work to do.”

In the report, Michaels stressed three areas:

  • Addressing hunger and obesity through health and nutrition. Mars is reducing sodium and saturated fats in its products, he says. “Of course, this is just a small step that we can take on our own. To make a more substantive contribution, we are working with external partners like the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation in the United States, to deepen understanding of the broader causes of poor nutrition and to promote healthier lifestyles.”

  • Creating “shared prosperity” in the supply chain. Another toughie: “Our business cannot endure unless the farmers that supply our agricultural ingredients can make a decent living from raising their crops sustainably. Our Vision for Change program for cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire made considerable progress last year, opening eight more Cocoa Development Centers (CDCs) to provide the tools, techniques and training to cultivate high-quality yields that result in better incomes. Our challenge now is to scale up successful pilot projects to become standard practice.”

  • Making a difference in the environment. “The case for environmental protection is indisputable,” Michaels asserted. He admits the Sustainable in a Generation program is making slower progress towards its 2015 targets than the company would like, but adds they are still achievable. For example, water use was reduced by 18 percent between 2007 (the baseline year) and 2012. The goal is a 25 percent reduction by 2015.

More problematic is the goal to reduce fossil-fuel energy use and GHG emissions by 25 percent by 2015. Fossil fuel-based energy use was reduced by 7.3 percent and GHG emissions went down by 5 percent between 2007 and 2012.
There’s also work to do to achieve zero waste-to-landfill by 2015: 29 of the company’s 126 sites achieved zero waste-to-landfill last year.

In addition, Michaels says, “We have also broadened our approach to take responsibility for the environmental impacts caused by, and affecting, our agricultural supply chains.”

Mars uses the “Planetary Boundaries” model as a key scientific input. This analysis is based on a review of existing research on the impacts of land use, water use and GHG emissions that “identifies nine environmental impacts and the point at which each one will cause catastrophic harm to human well-being.”

Bringing its global supply chain under the sustainability and five principles umbrella is a bold and perhaps ground-breaking move that only makes the job Mars has created for itself that much harder.

And placing the emphasis on people, planet and performance, rather than you know, that other P is also a promise, and a template, for change on a global scale.

[Image: Mars media image from the Mars site]

Bill DiBenedetto headshotBill DiBenedetto

Writer, editor, reader and generally good (okay mostly good, well sometimes good) guy trying to get by.

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