Mars announces deforestation-free palm oil supply chain

By Flora Southey contact

- Last updated on GMT

Pic: GettyImages/ic36006
Pic: GettyImages/ic36006

Related tags: Mars incorporated, Palm oil, deforestation

Mars, Inc. has announced its Palm Positive Plan has delivered a deforestation-free palm oil supply chain. Yet environmental NGO Greenpeace takes issue with the confectionery giant's strategy.

Just over one year since launching its Palm Positive Plan, Mars says its palm oil supply chain is 100% deforestation-free.

The Milky Bar-to-Extra chewing gum manufacturer rolled out the Palm Positive Plan in September 2019 to simplify and verify its supply chain. Mars has since reduced its mill count down from 1500, and expects to have fewer than 100 by 2021.

The confectionery giant plans to further halve that figure in 2022.

“For years, businesses have grappled with complex and opaque palm supply chains. It is now clear that this has not been enough to guarantee no deforestation or human rights issues,” ​said Barry Parkin, Chief Procurement and Sustainability Officer at Mars.

“By radically simplifying our palm supply chain, partnering with a smaller cohort of suppliers and rigorously applying the three M’s of Mapping, Management and Monitoring, we can eliminate deforestation and advance respect for human rights.”

Progress through partnerships

Mars maps and monitors land-use with the help of satellite technology. This is validated through the foodmaker’s partnership with Earth Equalizer/Aidenvironment, which ultimately, allows Mars to take ‘evidence-based action’ to simplify and select the suppliers and mills it sources from.

Mars cited its supply chain for its Asia-Pacific businesses as an example. For these operations, the company sources palm oil from UniFuji – a partnership between United Plantations and Fuji Oil. UniFuji has reduced operations from 780 mills to just one.

“This has been achieved through a 1:1:1 model – which means that palm is grown on one plantation, processed through one mill and one refinery before reaching Mars,” ​the confectioner explained.

Other partnerships have also helped Mars make sustainable progress in its supply chains.

In 2017, Mars engaged with its global human rights partner Verité and supplier Wilmar to examine how businesses across the palm oil supply chain could better understand, address and prevent human rights risk.

Mars is also collaborating with Earthworm Foundation’s Landscape Programme in Aceh, Indonesia to “help form community-based conservation plans, build smallholder capabilities and provide alternative livelihoods”, ​it said.

Elsewhere, Mars co-created the Coalition for Sustainable Livelihoods in 2018, which aims to ‘join up fragmented approaches within landscapes and jurisdictions to achieve scale’. The company also participates in the IDH Verified Sourcing Area steering group.

Greenpeace: ‘Simplifying supply chains is not the answer’

Mars is working to eliminate deforestation and degradation in five raw materials identified as having the greatest risks for driving deforestation: beef, cocoa, palm oil, pulp and paper, and soy.

“The journey can’t stop here. We at Mars have reached a significant milestone – but in order to extend this impact beyond our own supply, we are asking our suppliers that they apply these principles to all the palm oil they source not just the material they supply to us,” ​said Mars, Inc. CEO Grant Reid. “Mars believes a deforestation-free supply chain in any of these raw materials requires ongoing Mapping, Management and Monitoring.”

Environmental campaign group Greenpeace, however, has raised concerns around Mars’ approach to eliminating deforestation. While it is unsurprised Mars, and others in the FMCG space, are looking to reduce their exposure to forest destruction, Greenpeace argues that “simplifying supply chains for global customers is not going to clean up the commodities trade.

“It’s like trying to fix a leaky faucet in a burning building,”​ said Diana Ruiz, Greenpeace US forest campaigner.

Rather, companies must demand complete transparency from their suppliers as a condition of trade, she continued, and only source commodities from suppliers that prove they are clean. This means reducing the volumes bought.

“For global companies to really tackle the ecological and climate breakdown, they must drastically reduce overall consumption of commodities linked to land-use change, such as palm oil, meat and soy, and transition to a just food system that puts people and nature first.”

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