Global businesses are, quite rightly, under scrutiny over what they are doing to tackle challenges like climate change and poverty, and this week in New York was no exception.
The same questions have played out in every discussion, from formal Q&A panels to informal connections in the corridors of the UN: What is business doing to deliver the Paris Agreement? How can business and government work together to drive change at scale?
One of the key characteristics of the Paris Agreement is that it extends beyond governments to engage business. The opportunity for business is to seize this invitation to have a seat at the table, to do its part to address critical global challenges, and to realize the returns on investment in a sustainable future.
You only have to look at our own footprint at Mars to see the scale of impact business has on the world. Our carbon footprint is equivalent to that of a country roughly the size of Panama. With this scale comes responsibility. Mars, and companies like ours, must be as engaged as governments in delivering reductions in GHG emissions.
That’s why I was in New York, attending Climate Week and UN General Assembly events and talking to leaders in business, government and NGOs. As a private, family-owned business, we’ve not traditionally had a high-profile presence at events like this. But, if there was ever a time in our more than hundred-year history for us to find our voice and join the chorus calling for action, this is it.
Without doubt, some excellent work has taken place in recent years. But, after a week of engaging with global experts in a range of disciplines, it’s clear that this incremental progress will not put us on a trajectory to deliver the Paris Agreement or the Sustainable Development Goals. Now is the time for industry to transform how we look at our role in creating a more sustainable world. Which is why Mars has launched our new Sustainable in a Generation Plan, and committed to investing $1 billion behind this plan.
One of the questions I was asked repeatedly in New York was whether there really is a sound business case for tackling issues like climate change and poverty. The answer is an unqualified, yes.
Firstly, investment in operating sustainably delivers cost savings. Here at Mars, we are already capitalizing on the falling prices of renewable energy and the long-term cost savings of clean technology. This has helped us reduce our carbon emissions from our 150 factories around the world by 25%. I’m proud to say that we are already using enough renewable energy to make all of the M&M’s in the world. In fact, we now purchase enough renewable energy to fuel our entire operations in 5 counties, with a plan to make that 11 countries in 2018. All of this delivered at the same cost, or lower cost, than fossil fuel.
Secondly, for a company like Mars that is dependent on agriculture, our investments are creating a more resilient and resource-efficient supply chain where smallholder farmers and others can thrive. By working with our suppliers to source raw materials in a way that lowers climate risk and creates opportunity for people, we can increase crop yields and ensure affordable ingredient supplies; lessen the impact on natural resources; and ensure a generation of future farmers.
Lastly, there is a reward for doing the right thing. It makes us a more attractive partner to customers, governments and NGOs and it ensures our relevance to consumers as well as current and future Mars Associates. If we are to remain relevant for the next hundred years, we must drive an agenda that is forward-looking and focused, demonstrating what we stand for through our actions as a business.
This is a powerful case, and a call to action for all of business to double down in support of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. Business not only has a seat at the table, it has an accountability and a vested business interest in collaborating with everyone at the table, so let’s grab this opportunity with both hands.