MARS: Sustainability is Business as Usual

Sustainability isn’t just essential to farmers and consumers, it’s also vital for businesses. MARS is one of the world's leading chocolate manufacturers, which means that it can have a big impact on making sustainable choices in business, the environment and communities. Many US peanut farmers grow the peanuts used in your favorite MARS products like Snickers and M&M'S Peanut.

We asked MARS about sustainability and how peanuts play a role.  

1. There are vastly different definitions of sustainability. What does sustainability mean to Mars?

Mars is a family, principle-based company, so sustainability is particularly important to us. As a private business, we are always thinking generations ahead. That’s why, for example, we’ve pledged to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions from our operations by 2040. We’ll continue to invest significant resources behind important goals like these to truly lay the groundwork for a better future.

We are a company founded on mutuality. We strive to deliver growth we are proud of by operating in a way that ensures a win-win for Associates, our suppliers, farmers and the communities where we live and work. Sustainable sourcing is Mars’ commitment to drive down the environmental impact of our priority raw materials, advance respect for human rights across our value chain and help to lift farmers out of poverty.  To do this, we partner across the industry with experts, farmers, community groups, to address our shared challenges like land use, greenhouse gases, water use, human rights, and farmer income.  

2. What is Mars doing to emphasize sustainability and to add more transparency to its products?  

The first step in addressing sustainability challenges and opportunities within a supply chain is learning more about where your raw materials are sourced from. Without knowing where your raw materials originate, you cannot effectively design the best approach towards positive change. A huge sustainability accomplishment for us over the past year was mapping the supply chains of our priority raw materials, a massive undertaking. For Mars Chocolate, the process started with an analysis of raw materials including cocoa, palm, dairy, sugar, coconut and of course, peanuts. We then evaluated our supply chains and assessed both environmental and social risks these industries face particularly in the areas of land use, green house gases ,water use, income and human rights. This impact analysis helped us understand the global challenges we face and highlighted where we need to partner for a more sustainable future.      

3. What are you hearing from consumers when it comes to what they want regarding sustainability?  From retailers and other customers?  

There are a few growing consumer trends when it comes to sustainability. First, there is a growing trend towards increased traceability of supply chains. Consumers want to know where their food comes from, how it is grown, how the land is being managed, and how people and animals in the supply chain are being treated. This desire ties into a wanting to buy from brands and companies they can trust. In turn, consumers want to buy from companies that demonstrate a shared responsibility for managing our resources efficiently, while treating the people within their supply chains with respect. In fact, a 2015 Nielsen report on consumer behaviors polling 30,000 consumers across 60 countries found that brand trust topped the list of sustainability factors that influence purchasing decisions.   This proactive and transparent commitment to sustainability is an expectation that retailers, manufacturers and supply chains alike face.

4. Why are peanuts so important at Mars? How do they play a role in sustainability?

Peanuts are essential to Mars - from Snickers to M&M’S, many of our most beloved products contain peanuts.  We are committed to working with the rest of the industry to fully understand peanut production and make it a sustainable process for the future. Mars believes the peanut itself has a fantastic sustainability story to tell. For example, its inherent characteristics as a legume enrich the soil and benefit other crops. We also know that peanut farmers have made unbelievable gains in efficiency and innovation, and we are dedicated to continuing that momentum far into the future. Right now, we’re doing so by supporting production of a higher yielding, high quality high-oleic acid peanut. A peanut that stays fresher longer, high-oleic acid peanuts contribute to the longevity of peanut farming and benefit the entire industry. By the end of 2017, all M&M’S Peanut will have high-oleic acid peanuts. 

5. How do Mars and peanut farmers work together to preserve the environment and create high-quality foods? 

Creating high-quality products and ensuring the long-term viability of the peanut crop of course starts with peanut farmers. At Mars, we’re committed to working with U.S. farmers to grow peanut varieties that will contribute to sustainability of the crop by keeping peanuts competitive, free of disease and satisfying to consumers.

We recently invested more than $1.4 million to support the efforts of the International Peanut Genome Initiative, a group of crop geneticists that includes representatives from Mars. The Peanut Genome Initiative is looking to improve the variety of peanuts available– such as varieties that are disease resistant and have higher yields – and ways to make peanut farming more economical. We also partner with universities in dominant peanut farming regions, such as Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Texas and Florida to support peanut research projects. 

6. Mars is actively involved in the industry’s Field to Market program. What is it, how does it work and what’s its purpose in supporting sustainability?

We are very excited about our partnership with Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture in the U.S.  This alliance of over 120 organizations-from NGOs to farmer organizations to food and beverage companies-are all working in tandem to help define, measure and advance the sustainability of row crops in the United States. Field to Market uses a methodology rich in data to inform continuous improvement opportunities at the farm level, engaging the most important player in the agriculture industry, the farmer.  We know that farmers play a critical role in advancing sustainability, and Mars believes Field to Market’s science-based approach is a valuable tool to guide the right conversations. 

When it comes to peanuts, Mars Chocolate is proud to support the American Peanut Council’s collaboration with Field to Market, as the entire peanut industry is working together to obtain even better sustainability data of peanut production. Through these efforts, the peanut industry, and most importantly the farmer, will be able to demonstrate progress and drive continuous improvement at the farm level. Mars is an active advocate in the American Peanut Council’s Sustainability Task Force and will utilize our own Field to Market membership to collaborate and help ensure success of the entire industry’s efforts.

7. What does the future of sustainability look like at Mars?  

At Mars, sustainability is business as usual. We take responsibility for our global footprint and we’re constantly setting new goals for what we’d like to accomplish. To be successful, our commitments must be built on strong, scientific principles and focused on long term solutions. We will continue to aim for goals that address our five impact areas- GHG, Water Use, Land Use, Human Rights, and Farmer Income- in both our own operations and throughout the value chains of our key raw materials.  

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