Mars, Inc. launched a new palm oil policy six months ago and recently released an update on its progress. The food manufacturer best known for its chocolate committed to developing a palm oil supply chain that is both sustainable and traceable by the end of this year. The company requires palm oil to be traced back to known mills and for its suppliers to confirm they will comply with its sourcing charter by the end of 2015. It is currently on track to meet its commitment to achieve 100 percent traceability of its palm oil supplies by the end of this year.
Mars is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) . By the end of 2013, it purchased all of its palm oil from RSPO-certified sources through the “mass balance” program. Mass balance requires processors to purchase palm oil from certified sources, but allows them to mix it with conventional palm oil. As a result, some of the palm oil in its supply chain is from non-certified sources. Tracing palm oil back to known mills allows the company to assess the environmental and social practices of the plantations and farms the mills source from and see that improvements are made.
In March 2014, Mars started partnering with the Forest Trust (TFT), an international nonprofit that works with companies and communities to help them deliver their products responsibly. Since then, representatives from Mars and TFT have met with all of the company’s palm oil suppliers to make sure they are both aware of the palm oil sourcing policy and fully understand it. Mars is working with all of its suppliers to get their written commitment to its sourcing policy by the end of the year. Experts from TFT are working with Mars to trace its palm oil supplies back to known mills. As of August 31, 2014, 57 percent of its palm oil can be traced back to a known mill. Its suppliers have agree to provide a Traceability Declaration Document on the mills and any bulk refineries they use to source palm oil from.
Palm oil production in the world’s three largest palm oil producing countries (Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea) has caused deforestation. From 1990 to 2010, over a third of large-scale palm oil expansion in those three countries caused 3.5 million hectares of tropical forest to be lost. Deforestation threatens certain animals such as orangutans, elephants and tigers, and contributes to climate change by causing carbon emissions to be released into the atmosphere.
Image credit: Mars