'We're trying to go all in': Chocolate giant Mars pledges $1 billion to fight climate change

An agricultural worker picks cocoa pods. Getty Images.
  • Mars pledges to spend $US1 billion on ‘Sustainability in a Generation’ plan.
  • Aims to tackle climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emission and promoting sustainable farming.
  • Mars wants big companies around the world to follow its lead.
  • Warns of “more extreme weather events… causing significant challenges and hardships” unless more action is taken.

LONDON — Chocolate giant Mars is promising to spend close to $US1 billion over the next few years fighting climate change.

The $US35 billion food giant behind brands like M&Ms, Skittles, and Twix on Wednesday launched its “Sustainability in a Generation” plan, aiming to reduce the carbon footprint of its business and supply chain by more than 60% by 2050.

Barry Parkin, Mars’ chief sustainability officer, told Business Insider: “We’ve been increasingly worried about overall progress on the big issues, whether that’s climate change or solving poverty.

“There are obviously commitments the world is leaning into but, frankly, we don’t think we’re getting there fast enough collectively. We’re trying to go all in here.”

‘We believe in the scientific view of climate science and the need for collective action’

The huge investment commitment comes ahead of a UN General Assembly and Climate Week in New York later this month and the timing is meant to spur other companies around the world to make similar environmental commitments.

CEO Grant F. Reid said in a statement released on Wednesday that “the engine of global business — its supply chain — is broken, and requires transformational, cross-industry collaboration to fix it.”

Parkin warned that the consequences of inaction are “the planet warming, more extreme weather events, and that causing significant challenges and hardships in specific places around the world, whether that’s oceans rising or crops not growing successfully.”

“We’re a food business, which is based on agriculture so we care a lot about the farmers who supply us around the world. It’s towards 1 million farmers around the world who produce raw materials for us,” he said.

“Climate science says many of those are going to be challenged as the world gets warmer. We care about this both on a societal level but also on a business level.”

He added: “It’s time for companies to accelerate their game and work together, and work together with governments and civil society. This is a world issue and it requires all actors to work together.”

Mars, which had close to $US35 billion in sales last year, was one of the companies that signed a letter urging President Trump not to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement in June. Parkin denied that Mars’ investment was motivated by Trump, saying: “We’re not interested in the politics here — this is about policy. We believe in the scientific view of climate science and the need for collective action.”

But he added: “We’re clearly disappointed that the US administration has chosen to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.”

Mars will meet the environmental commitments set out in the Paris Agreement as part of its sustainability plan.

‘You have to completely change the way you operate your business’

Mars’ $US1 billion sustainability drive will include investments in:

  • Renewable energy: Mars’ US and UK operations are already powered by huge wind farms built over the last decade but it plans to have totally wind-powered operations in 11 countries around the world by next year, with plans for Russia, China, Australia, and India.
  • Food sourcing: The company, which also makes pet food under brands like Whiskas and Pedigree, will invest in sustainable sourcing for ingredients like fish.
  • Cross-industry action groups: Mars has set up groups like the Cocoa Action, an industry coalition aimed at making cocoa growing more sustainable, and Livelihoods Fund for Family Farming, which invests in small holder farming across the world.
  • Farmers: “A huge amount of it will go upstream in working with farmers and helping farmers transform the way they grow crops to be both more environmentally sound but also in ways that dramatically increase the income of farmers,” Parkin says.
Barry Parkin, Mars' chief sustainability officer.MarsBarry Parkin, Mars’ chief sustainability officer.

Parkin said: “This is not just a little bit better. The science says we need to reduce our carbon footprint by two-thirds and we’re going to do that. You have to completely change the way you operate your business and you have to completely change how you source your products.”

He added: “The billion is a good start and a very clear investment but we fundamentally have to make the business more sustainable. Everything we invest over the next few years has to be in pursuit of becoming a truly sustainable business.

“We care about our business being successful over the next 100 years.”

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