Mars recently unveiled its Mars Net Zero Roadmap, a detailed action plan to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions across its full value chain by 2050. It has committed over $1 billion in the next three years to this cause and will continue to commit financial resources as needed until Net Zero is achieved.
I sat down with Andy Pharoah, Vice President, Corporate Affairs & Sustainability at Mars, to delve into the company’s unique approach to purpose and sustainability.
Mars’ purpose, as Andy Pharoah explains, is a beacon that influences not only their business practices but also their responsibility towards associates and the communities in which they operate. “Articulating the purpose of our company was one of the first tasks I had upon joining the business. For me, it was key that we had a clear purpose to differentiate ourselves, and that we communicate that externally. After going through the process of defining purpose, with collaboration from the Mars family, we arrived at this simple, yet powerful statement: ‘The world we want tomorrow starts with how we do business today’,” he reflected.
One of the things that shows how seriously the company takes this is its pioneering stance when it comes to linking remuneration to impact. This linkage extends beyond mere words and translates into a robust commitment to accountability. At Mars, senior leaders’ variable pay is directly tied to the Mars Compass, which encompasses ambitious objectives like GHG emission reductions, creating sustainable packaging, and safeguarding Mars’ reputation. This alignment ensures that Mars’ leaders have a vested interest in the company’s long-term value, emphasizing sustainability alongside profitability.
This novel approach is deeply ingrained in Mars’ operating model, including remuneration and resource allocation plans. Pharoah outlined, “We are unique in this way. For example, when our business segments are required to present three-year financial plans, what we call an integrated value creation plan, they must encompass their sustainability targets into those plans. Where will they be on greenhouse gas emissions? Where will they be on plastics? How much will they invest in these things? These are the questions that are constantly being asked of teams and leaders, and their performance against these has a material impact on their pay.”
Mars doesn’t subscribe to the notion that sustainability comes at the cost of performance. It firmly believes that embedding climate reductions into governance and business planning, including in variable remuneration plans of senior executives, investment planning process, and its merger and acquisition strategy is the key to achieving both.
Pharoah noted on this commitment, “We are heading in the right direction as we are aiming to achieve Net Zero emissions by 2050 across all 3 scopes of the value chain, with an ambitious near-term target to reduce emissions 50% by 2030. We know we have more to do, but we’re making progress. Since 2015, we have reduced absolute emissions by 8%, while growing the business by 60%. Our GHG emissions are down 15 percentage points from our peak in 2018.”
This focus on real, tangible progress highlights their commitment to sustainability without sacrificing performance. Mars aims to decouple their business’s impact on the planet from their aspirations for growth, fueled by a genuine desire to create a positive impact.
Mars recognizes that some of the most meaningful work, be it on emissions or social sustainability, occurs within its extended supply chain. And it is about creating lasting change throughout the industry supply chains, through simplification and collaboration. This realization has led to Mars’ involvement in the Supplier Leadership on Climate Transition (Supplier LoCT) coalition. This initiative strives to drive climate action throughout global supply chains. Participating businesses will mentor and train suppliers in emissions reduction strategies and recognize their achievements.
“It comes as part of our #PledgeforPlanet initiative launched in 2019, calling on suppliers to join us in setting climate targets in line with the Science Based Targets Initiative, signing on to The Climate Group’s RE100, and embracing a future with renewable energy at the center of operations,” Pharoah added.
Mars doesn’t believe that every brand needs to have an explicit, activist social or environmental purpose. However, all of its brands play a role in Mars’ commitment to improving society and the world writ large. A brand’s purpose must be relevant to the brand, meaningful to consumers, and most importantly, built on truth and authenticity.
Pharoah elaborated, “Take M&Ms – you’ll have no doubt seen our global purpose campaign culminating at the Super Bowl earlier this year. The campaign utilizes comedy as a means of fostering inclusion and belonging for all…for all FunKind. As part of this commitment, we have set a goal to increase the sense of belonging for 10 million people worldwide by 2025. This purpose is not a short-term endeavor but a multi-year commitment. We have established a strong platform for the brand, and now it is our responsibility to leverage it for good, creating a lasting and positive impact within our communities.”
Sheba is another brand engaged in the crucial mission of restoring coral reefs, recognizing the urgent need for environmental preservation. Since the restoration of Hope Reef in Indonesia began, we have witnessed remarkable transformations. Coral growth has surged from 2% to 70%, fish populations have increased by 260%, and the number of fish species has risen by 64%.
And in all of its advertising, Mars is seeking to increase representation. “We’ve partnered with the Geena Davis Institute (GDI) on Gender in the Media since 2018 to help us measure representation and address bias in our marketing which means constantly asking ourselves questions about who is represented, and how. Are women portrayed in the home, or are they taking a leadership role? Which characters get the most screen time?” Pharoah added.
Mars recognizes that they’re on a journey toward a sustainable future, and they’re eager for others to join them. As Pharoah explained, “Nobody is perfect, but at Mars, we have laid out our plans to get to Net Zero in part to give information to our customers and suppliers, in part so that we can get input from NGOs and peers, and also so that other companies can hopefully find inspiration. And we have already seen this happen, as several peers have got in touch to learn more. Businesses do not have to choose between sustainability and profitability – both can be achieved, and Mars is demonstrating just that.”