In 2011, Mars told the world about Sustainable in a Generation (SiG): their promise to stop using fossil fuels and eliminate all their greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 with a 25% reduction by 2015 from their 2007 baseline.
A bold claim. But what’s behind it?
What’s good for the world is good for business
At the Low-Carbon Innovation Conference in 2012, Mars’ global sustainability director Kevin Rabinovitch said that if your argument is tied to climate science, ‘it becomes very hard for people to say: well, that’s the wrong target.’
Climate science tells us that by 2050 we need to cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 80%. So that’s what Mars have based their ambitious targets on.
It’s a big ask, but Mars is playing the long game. For them, following the science isn’t just about the health of the planet; it’s about securing their future. Everything they make – chocolate, confectionery, chewing gum and pet food – relies on crops: crops that are in danger of being impacted by rising temperatures, floods or droughts if greenhouse gas emissions carry on unchecked.
So Mars has looked to renewables to power their production lines.
In Texas, they built a wind farm
If you picked up Manhattan, and put it down in the space that Mars and its partner Sumitomo Corporation used for their wind farm, you’d still have room for four more Central Parks.
Fully operational in April 2015, the $345 million facility in Lamesa, Texas will create electricity equivalent to that used in all of Mars’ US operations, across 70 sites – enough to eliminate almost a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions produced by their offices and factories globally.
- 25,000 acres
- 118 turbines
- 800,000 MWh a year
Across the US, they built solar gardens
Since 2012, there’s been a solar installation at Mars’s Henderson (Nevada) site – producing as much electricity annually as the site uses.
- 4.4 acres
- 1,250,000 kWh a year
- 867 tonnes of carbon avoided a year.
Meanwhile, the M&Ms® in your packet moved along the conveyor belts in Hackettstown (New Jersey) in part because of the solar panels next door.
- 18 acres
- 28,000 solar panels
- 1,000 tonnes of CO2 (effectively 190 vehicles) avoided a year.
And over in Chattanooga (Tennessee) the roofs on Mars’ buildings shine blue, producing enough electricity to power about 55 detached homes each year.
- 4,000 square feet (of roof space)
- 170,000 kWh a year
Across the globe, they kept building
From powering showers and sinks in Guangzhou, China to launching a US$1.3 million solar project in Australia, Mars keeps using the power of the sun to fuel their factories.
To meet their 2040 target, Mars’ sustainability programme doesn’t just cover wind and solar. Mars is also turning waste to energy to make steam in France, making biogas from wastewater at multiple sites, and using biomass in India. Their strategy has been to start by making themselves more efficient, and slowly move over to renewable energy sources.
What’s more, recognizing that driving for real and science based solutions to address climate change requires the support of many stakeholders (e.g. governments, business, agriculture, scientific community, NGOs and others) Mars is using their advocacy voice to promote change. Mars has recently joined up with other like-minded, global companies through a Ceres led-BICEP to make the business case for addressing climate change and for calling on governments to undertake meaningful negotiations to reach international consensus in a unified approach.
‘You've got to bridge the gap between what you're committing to, and what the science suggests needs to be committed to,’ says Kevin Rabinovitch. ‘This has become a very strong hallmark of our sustainability programme.’
 Area of farm: 25,000 acres. Total area of Manhattan: 87 km2 (21,498 acres). Central Park: 843 acres. Manhattan + four Central Parks = 24,870 acres.