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 the company's recent accomplishments and how they plan to respond to the new U.N. Goals. It turns out Mars has already put together a comprehensive list of responses to all 17.
Parkin explained 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 U.N.'s 17 goals are immediately material to Mars' business, Parkin sees the company's 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 U.N.'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 U.N. 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.
Image credit: Pexels
Nick Aster is the founder of TriplePundit.
TriplePundit.com has grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place. It was acquired in 2017 by 3BLMedia, the leading news distribution and content marketing company focused on niche topics including sustainability, health, energy, education, philanthropy, community and other social and environmental topics.
Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He also worked for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.
Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.