Championing the Sustainability Agenda
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: James Mitchell
As one of the world’s most reputed and renowned food manufacturers, it may well seem an inevitability that Mars is ahead of the game when it comes to efficiencies and sustainable operations, but the Company’s ability to remain entrepreneurial and flexible within a Group of that size is an attribute that few can match.
The confectionery, food products and pet food producer is a truly global entity, with brands including Mars, Snickers, Bounty, Whiskers, Pedigree and Uncle Ben’s established household names in each region of operation. In South Africa, the Company is equally prominent through its manufacturing and distribution network, with the country one of the more interesting platforms on which to promote more sustainable processes and operational excellence.
The annual gathering at the increasingly significant Retail Congress event once again set the tone for heavyweights like Mars to not just share their own expertise, but to feed off the industry’s potential game-changers, of all sizes, with a view to enhanced sector prominence in the future.
Having been present in South Africa for 12 years, Mars’ ongoing investments into factory optimisation has been award-winning; complementing a general, global knowledge base and making the Company’s future incentives all the more fascinating for peers at Retail Congress Africa 2015.
Triple bottom line
This year’s topic discussed by Mars was ‘Driving a Triple Bottom Line Strategy: Championing the Sustainability Agenda’; an area very much in Mars’ wheelhouse and one which Mars Food’s Supply Chain Director, David Hallett happily addressed as he discussed the Company’s view towards a more efficient future.
“We recognise the immense challenge posed to society by climate change, water scarcity, and deforestation. We are committed to make a difference in tackling them, while continuing to grow as a successful business,” he said. “We have some important goals in the sustainability space. At Mars our mission is to ‘deliver growth we are proud of’.
“Part of achieving that is to be ‘Sustainable in a Generation’ [and] in the shorter-term, we define that as a 25 percent reduction in our water and energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions.”
With concerted pressure on both these resources in Africa – and South Africa in particular – Mars is already ahead of the game in implementing these targets at its food plant in Cape Town, paving the way for its longer-term ambition and commitment to reduce the Company’s dependence on fossil fuel use and to eliminate GHG emissions by 2040.
Hallett continued: “This is certainly going to be a tough challenge in Africa, but Mars has already shown its commitment to step-changing how we provide energy for our plants with the largest ever investment in renewable energy by a global food company.
“Mars invested in a vast wind farm in Texas that effectively provides energy equal to that required by all its North American operations. The scale of this investment demonstrates the Mars family commitment to addressing climate change in a meaningful way.”
Mars also has ambitious targets regarding zero waste to landfill, with two-thirds of its global operations already meeting this demand. In Africa, the resources and facilities to facilitate the same results aren’t readily available, but the Company has once again countered this via a partnership with RE-, a Company dedicated to ethical environment re-engineering.
“We are in the advanced stages of testing with a local cement kiln to use our waste in their energy stream,” Hallett explained. “This is a great area where non-competitive collaboration with other businesses drives the triple bottom line for everyone involved.”
The sustainability initiatives that Mars has pursued are triple bottom line solutions that not only deliver social and environmental benefits, but deliver business opportunities as well, with enhanced energy efficiencies providing greater freedom to do business from its factories.
“Similarly, our sustainable sourcing solutions ensure a long-term supply of the commodities our business depends on,” Hallett added. “For example, we have committed to sustainably sourcing 100 percent of Mars Food’s rice by 2020 through the adoption of a new global standard for sustainable rice.
“Developed by the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) – a public-private partnership led by the UN Environmental Programme and the International Rice Research Institute – this standard will lead to the adoption of sustainable rice practices in key rice-growing regions that will reduce water use and greenhouse gas emissions, but also increase farmers’ yields, and thus, their income.
“These strategies are good for the environment and rice farming communities, but they also ensure that Mars Food will continue to have access to the high-quality rice our consumers love in Uncle Ben’s. That’s why Mars Food took a leading role in developing the SRP standard.”
Mars’ focus on sustainability is inspired by the Company’s Five Principles, which drive business decisions and the work of its associates.
“At Mars Food, our purpose – Better Food Today. A Better World Tomorrow – also drives our work on sustainability, particularly our efforts to map our rice supply chain and deliver 100 percent sustainably-sourced rice by 2020,” Hallett said. “As a private, family-owned business, Mars has the freedom to take a long-term view and invest in innovative and sustainable practices that will enable us to deliver growth we are proud of.
“Through our Five Principles, we believe we have a responsibility to seek mutual solutions to today’s challenges that will provide benefits not only to our business, but also our suppliers, customers, consumers and associates.”
Further to this, Mars has engaged with a wide variety of stakeholders to advance its sustainability initiatives on a global scale; from the UN Environment programme, to key trade associations, government stakeholders, NGOs, and researchers.
“We believe in the power of public/private partnerships to bring about credible solutions that can have a lasting impact,” Hallett affirmed.
A great place to work
Sustainability isn’t only relevant from an internal perspective, with the aforementioned business partnerships and strategic alliances pivotal to the Company’s formulation of a local influence, despite being a global enterprise.
This same engraining into the local fabric is evident via Mars’ corporate social responsibility efforts, enriching lives in the surrounding communities and once again laying the foundations for a longstanding, reputable presence in one of its fastest growing markets.
“One project very close to our heart is the Shoprite Soup Kitchen through which Royco partners with other companies to serve soup on a daily basis to South Africans in need,” Hallett concluded. “To date, we have served well over 20 million cups of soup. Mars Food Africa provides the fortified soup for this initiative and our associates commit to volunteering to serve soup in our communities.
“In fact, many Mars associates from around the world are so proud of this initiative, they make it something they want to do when they come on holiday with their families to South Africa and some even insist on paying towards the soup themselves.
“These kinds of activities make me really proud to work at Mars. Mars truly is a great place to work!”