Mars details net zero targets: ‘We can’t wait decades to see progress’

By Katy Askew contact

- Last updated on GMT

Mars rice sourcing in Pakistan / Pic: Mars
Mars rice sourcing in Pakistan / Pic: Mars

Related tags: Mars incorporated, Mars, carbon neutral, Climate change

Global rice-to-chocolate giant Mars Inc. has said it will reach net zero emissions across its full value chain by 2050. Discussing the move, chief executive Grant F. Reid insisted ‘gaps’ in industry pledges need to be addressed and argued long-term aims cannot be an excuse for ‘inaction and delay’.

Mars has set new science-based climate targets to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions across its full value chain – including scopes 1, 2 and 3 – by 2050. This covers everything from agriculture through to emissions generated by consumers using its household brands.

The pledge aligns the company with the drive to limit global temperature rises to 1.5 °C, as outlined in the Paris Agreement, and builds on Mars’ previous commitments to tackle its carbon impact. The company set its first carbon target back in 2009 when it said it would achieve net zero in direct operations by 2040. Mars already had targets in place to reduce its total GHG emissions from the full value chain by 27% by 2025 and by 67% by 2050, from 2015 levels.

Since 2015, Mars has cut emissions in its full value chain by 7.3% despite the business continuing to grow. In its direct operations, Mars has  reduced emissions by 31% and is on-track to achieve is interim 2025 target of a 42% reduction, the company noted.

Efforts have included work to transition towards renewable energy. The company now sources 100% renewable electricity for the entirety of its direct operations in 11 countries, accounting for more than 54% of its global electricity needs, with plans to make the switch in another eight countries by 2025.

Mars said it is stepping-up its ambition following the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report​, which reinforced the urgency of achieving net zero globally to prevent the worst impacts of global warming. This agenda will be a critical focus of next month’s COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow.

Moy Win Farm, Scotland - Mars
Mars sources renewable electricity from projects like the Moy Wind Farm, Scotland / Pic: Mars

‘Intervention must be bolder and faster’

Mars CEO Grant F. Reid insisted that carbon action needs to accelerate. “The scale of global intervention must be bolder and faster. Climate change is already impacting the planet and people’s lives.”

The long-term nature of industry carbon targets is a point of concern, the chief executive elaborated, insisting that this cannot be an excuse for ‘inaction and delay’.

“The science tells us net zero targets must be broad in their reach, capturing emissions across the entire value chain and plans need to have material, interim targets. We can’t wait decades to see progress.

“However, all too often, this simply isn’t the case – and the gaps that exist in some net zero commitments risks undermining their credibility, and even more importantly, the climate action movement. We can’t allow that to happen.”

Mars has therefore outlined its plan to deliver absolute emissions reductions across its entire GHG footprint including all scope 3 indirect emissions such as business travel, retail customer emissions, use of sold products, and product end-of-life.

To galvanise action, the company is setting five-year milestones and linking executive pay to the delivery of GHG reductions.

“To deliver meaningful impact and ensure it is fit for purpose, our net zero target covers our entire GHG footprint, from how we source materials through to how consumers use our products, and we’re mobilizing our entire business around taking action now and hitting interim targets every five years,”​ Reid explained.

Mars Royal Canin
Royal Canin will go CO2 neutral by 2022 / Pic: Mars

Announcing the company-wide commitments, Mars revealed that its largest brand, pet nutrition brand Royal Canin, will pursue carbon neutrality for its full portfolio in 2025. Royal Canin wants its first product range to be certified carbon neutral in 2022.

This will be achieved through: projects financed by an internal price on carbon, a science-based methodology to calculate each product’s carbon footprint, adhering to the PAS 2060 standard for carbon neutrality, a mutual approach with value chain partners to minimize GHG emissions and by supporting high-quality carbon credit initiatives for remaining emissions.

“Our brands play a crucial role in driving progress and especially in connecting this issue with consumers. I’m pleased that we can make this commitment to a more sustainable future for people, pets and the planet,​” Reid added.

Overhauling the supply chain

Mars will publish a full net zero roadmap in 2022 to align with the anticipated Science-Based Target Initiative rules on net zero commitments, expected by the end of 2021.

Mars’ full value chain greenhouse gas emissions in 2015 – the company’s baseline – were estimated at 33m tonnes of CO2e. Within the supply chain, agriculture and land-use change account for 80% of the total.

The company has said it will eliminate deforestation in its supply chain, particularly in key raw materials that have the ‘greatest impact on emissions’. This effort sees Mars ‘redesigning’ its supply chains to help stop deforestation and conversion of natural ecosystems in five key raw materials: cocoa, beef, palm oil, pulp and paper and soy. The company aims to achieve this by 2025.

Mars believes progress will require a shift away from ingredient procurement based on ‘cost alone’ with a greater focus on enhanced transparency and traceability in commodities sourcing. For instance, the company recently announced it has achieved a deforestation-free palm oil supply chain by reducing the number of palm mills supplying it from 1,500 to less than 90 mills this year. This facilitated the implementation of strict standards and satellite monitoring.

Mars palm oil sourcing partner Unifuji
Mars palm oil sourcing partner Unifuji / Pic: Mars

Barry Parkin, Mars Chief Sustainability and Procurement Officer, said mobilising action in the extended supply chain would be critical to delivering emissions. “More than three quarters of our impacts are embedded in the materials that we purchase - so we must change what we buy or where we buy it or, perhaps more importantly, how we buy it.”

Mars is also increasing engagement with its agricultural suppliers in a bid to scale up initiatives in sustainable and regenerative practices. “It is also clear that further transformation of agriculture is needed. We will push the boundaries of what is possible through regenerative agriculture, and this will require an acceleration of our work, along with deeper and more integrated partnerships with our suppliers, and stronger government frameworks that incentivize sustainable practices,”​ Parkin explained.

Mars is working with farmers and suppliers to promote improved agricultural practices, sustainable land use and to support science and technology, such as genomics research, that pinpoints how to produce more resilient and higher yielding crops.

The company will also take further action to improve soil health to unlock crop yield potential and provide other environmental and climate change benefits, Mars said. Projects already underway include the Cool Soil Initiative, which is supporting resilience in wheat production in Australia; the Sustainable Dairy Partnership, which is scaling up collaboration between dairy suppliers and buyers around the globe; and Oryzonte, a program to improve rice agriculture in Spain, reducing both water use and methane emissions.

As part of its work in the supply chain, Mars is ‘challenging’ its 20,000+ suppliers to take climate action and set ‘meaningful targets’. The food giant said it is prioritising collaboration, including its Pledge for Planet program and the recently announced Supplier Leadership on Climate Transition (S-LoCT​). This initiative aims to encourage suppliers to calculate their own GHG footprints and to set their own science-based targets. The program provides training and capability building with the ambition to sign up other brands to join and scale the project throughout the supply chain.

Any residual emissions the business cannot get to zero will be ‘neutralized’ with ‘real, durable, and socially beneficial’ carbon credits based on removing carbon from the atmosphere, aligned with the SBTi Net Zero Foundations paper, Mars added. This will include identifying and investing in projects that are focused on the highest ecological, social and carbon impact, such as its recent investment in the €150m Livelihoods Carbon Fund 3, along with 13 other investors and companies.

“Our roadmap to net zero clearly prioritizes reducing our own emissions but there is a recognition within the science community that the agricultural sector will be particularly hard to completely decarbonize. Therefore, carbon removal credits will have to play a part in helping us to neutralize any remaining emissions. In doing this, we will apply a high level of rigor so that any credits we buy are removing carbon from the atmosphere and that is tracked with strong science and monitoring,”​ Parkin noted.

Looking at the scale and speed of the change necessary within Mars’ operations and supply chain, Reid did not downplay the enormity of the task ahead. “This is going to be a significant challenge,”​ the chief executive said.

“We need to overhaul the supply chains which power global business and put an end to deforestation and the conversion of natural ecosystems to drive meaningful change now. We can’t use long-term ambitions as an excuse for inaction and delay.”

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