Q&A with Mars: What it takes to tackle land-use change

This interview was originally published in our DIG IN Food Report.

Mars Incorporated has been a leader in land-related supply chain management initiatives. We sat down with Kevin Rabinovitch, Mars’ Global Vice President of Sustainability, to discuss how to tackle land-use change in supply chains and what to do when certifications aren’t enough. Read on to learn how Mars is going beyond certifications to drive real change in key commodity supply chains such as cocoa and palm oil. Discover the way working more closely with suppliers benefits their own company and builds resilience across their supply chains.

Mars land-use change certifications

"Every business has an opportunity to rethink their buying power by focusing on what and where we source, fixing our weakest links, and working collaboratively to advance long-term change."

Kevin Rabinovitch, Global Vice President of Sustainability, Mars Incorporated

Quantis: Why is addressing land impacts such an integral aspect of your sustainability strategy?

Kevin Rabinovitch (KR): As a food company that uses hundreds of ingredients grown around the world, our business is built on land and its future depends on sustainable land-use. More recently, we’ve seen that engaging our suppliers on land-use change and land management practices is critical to our climate strategy. We’ve estimated that 75% of Mars’ emissions come from our agricultural value chains, with 29% from land-use change, such as deforestation and degradation associated with growing crops. Addressing land-related impacts allows us to tap into natural climate solutions to drive progress toward our science-based target to reduce our value chain emissions by 27% by 2025 and 67% by 2050. The impacts also go beyond carbon; improving land management helps address other issues in our supply chain, including supporting livelihoods, protecting forests and improving biodiversity.

Quantis: What role has certification played in sustainable sourcing and tackling deforestation?

KR: Certification can be an important step in the journey to prevent supply chain deforestation, and we have made a lot of progress in certifying key raw materials. For example, we have sourced 100% of our palm oil through the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and around 50% of our cocoa is certified by organizations such as Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade. However, we’re finding that not all certifications are created equal, and they haven’t always clearly translated into impact improvement. Clearly, certification is one tool in the toolbox, but is not sufficient on its own to prevent deforestation in supply chains.


Quantis: What is Mars doing to address certification gaps and take meaningful actions to address deforestation?

KR: Throughout key raw materials, such as cocoa and palm oil, we are re-thinking what it takes to prevent deforestation and engaging other companies in the strategic discussions, through the Consumer Goods Forum and other platforms. Cocoa accounts for almost one-third of our land area footprint and a significant portion of our land-use change emissions. In September 2018 we announced our Cocoa for Generations strategy to source Responsible Cocoa across our entire supply chain by 2025. We are also working with other confectionery companies and the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana (which produce approximately 70% of the world’s supply of cocoa) through the Cocoa & Forest Initiative to end cocoa-related deforestation. We are instituting a comprehensive new approach to achieve a deforestation-free supply chain for cocoa we source by 2025.

Quantis: What has the impact of this work been on your supply chain?

KR: Tackling key issues in our supply chain has enabled us to work closely with suppliers and producers to identify solutions to tough challenges together. Being more involved across the value chain means we can identify real needs and risks faster and address issues more directly. Simply put, it’s good business to invest in supply chains that will help businesses become stronger and more resilient in the future. Every business has an opportunity to rethink their buying power by focusing on what and where we source, fixing our weakest links, and working collaboratively to advance long-term change. This is the only way we are going to fix broken supply chains and build a more sustainable future.

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