Candy Giant 'Mars' Wants To Cut Deforestation From Supply Chain

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May. 24 2019, Updated 11:44 a.m. ET

Mars announced an investment of $1 billion in their sustainability program back in September, and now they’re going to kick it up another notch. A senior executive for the company announced at the Responsible Business Forum that he would like to collaborate with others to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

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Ehab Abou-Oaf, president of the Asia, Middle East, and Africa Confectionary for Mars, has made it clear that this was a major investment for the company, not just showing awareness for environmental issues in words, but in actions. Since the entire food industry is impacted by issues like deforestation and human rights abuse, he is hoping for a partnership to solve these problems -- even with competitors.

“We are very conscious and clear that unless we have a thriving agricultural sector, the whole industry will be at risk,” Abou-Oaf said at the forum in Singapore. “Not just us, (but) everybody who makes chocolate.”

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Mars has been implementing sustainable goals for the past decade, but the $1 billion announcement in September was the company’s biggest push into the subject. Called “Sustainability in a Generation,” the program will eliminate 100 percent of greenhouse gases by 2040 and will increase the amount of wind farms they’ll receive power from.

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The cocoa trade in Asia and Africa is the company’s biggest concern. Deforestation, poverty, and local workers working in hazardous conditions have all made an impact in production. Mars aims to fully source their product from sustainable farmers that have gone through a process of official certification.

Communication and government engagement is the hardest part in improving cocoa yields, the palm oil supply chain, and farmers’ wellbeing. Mars has a slightly smaller stake in the palm oil industry, but they attempt to make sure it’s not linked to deforestation. However, it can be unclear at times on where these products actually originate from, and competitors working together to tackle these issues could make it easier to resolve.

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“What we want to do as a business is to frame the conversation such that by working together [with government] we can make a difference to the livelihoods in the landscape that we rely on,” David Pendlington, Mars’ senior manager for sustainable sourcing, told Eco-Business. “By doing that, we can address challenges such as deforestation and human rights.”

Mars’ visions all fall under ending poverty, ensuring healthy lives, and fighting climate change under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Not only have they made a big investment into it, but they are looking to quickly make a difference and are welcoming everybody to help eliminate these problems.

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