How Mars is Socialising its Sustainability Commitments

Romi Mackiewicz is Global Director of Brand & Purpose at Mars, Inc
Romi Mackiewicz, Global Director, Brand & Purpose at Mars on showcasing sustainability actions for greater consumer clarity and employee engagement

A charge often levelled at large organisations is that communication of their sustainability credentials and actions is unclear, or even misleading.

According to a survey of consumers across 16 countries conducted late 2023, the general public is frustrated with confusing information and claims. Carried out by BEUC and ICRT, the survey showed 48% prefer buying products clearly labelled as sustainable, but more than a third (34%) had noticed greenwashing in the previous 12 months. 

That’s one reason why Mars, Inc – the snacking, food, and pet care giant – is committed to what it calls ‘socialising its commitments’, to encourage education and shared action for consumers and its 140,000 employees.

With annual sales of more than US$47 billion, the family-owned business states its Purpose as ‘the world we want tomorrow starts with how we do business today’. Which is all well and good, but how is that being achieved, and what part does socialising commitments play?

Romi Mackiewicz is Global Director of Brand & Purpose at Mars, Inc and her role is broadly centred around clarifying and showcasing the action Mars takes towards that stated Purpose.

“We believe in action over ads so this involves working alongside our SMEs to develop creative campaigns which amplify the actions Mars is taking to bring our Purpose to life internally and externally,” Mackiewicz tells Sustainability magazine.

“While consumers share our urgency in tackling climate change, it’s not always clear to them what companies and brands are doing in this space to deliver real change. 

“In December, we launched a first-of-its-kind digital and out-of-home campaign for the company. Titled ‘Healthy Planet Productions’, the campaign ‘reuses’ fan-favourite Mars ads giving them a second life with new messages of hope and progress around climate action – in essence, harnessing the power of iconic brands to inspire and drive consumer awareness.”

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Engaging consumers in the fight against climate change is an imperative, more now than ever as education, awareness and urgency grows. However, consumers are clearly tired of being told how they need to change and are expecting industries and governments to make real changes today to reduce the impact on the environment. 

“By communicating our sustainability actions, we are hopefully making it easy for consumers to engage and feel good about the products and brands they know and love,” says Mackiewicz. 

As well as the Healthy Planet Productions campaign, and a recent partnership with London-based e-bike B Corp Forest, another successful socialisation saw cat food brand Sheba inspire people to take action to protect oceans, and confectionary brand Galaxy showcased its cocoa supply chain that is free from deforestation.

Mars has an ambitious goal to halve emissions by 2030 and be net zero by 2050, and Mackiewicz says the organisation is focused on making choices that helps it achieve near-term results without compromising on the world we want tomorrow. 

“For Mars, profit and purpose are not conflicting entities, it is not a trade-off between protecting the planet and/or growing the business,” she says. 

“We see achieving Net Zero as an investment in our company’s long-term success and will simultaneously make a meaningful contribution to a more sustainable and more stable operating environment. By prioritising our planet, we can engage our Associates, make our business stronger and drive cost savings.”

Mars Ads Given a Second Life With New Messages of Hope and Progress Around Climate Action

Those Associates are the 140,000 Mars employees that have a vital role to play in integrating climate action into the business.

Mars says it is seeing the positive impact of engaging Associates in the sustainability journey. Since 2015, it has reduced emissions across its global value chain by 8% while growing the business 60%. 

Getting these Associates to buy-in to sustainability is incredibly important. When employee ambitions are aligned with a company's goals, it fosters an organic sense of purpose and, ultimately, that leads to higher engagement levels. 

“This ethos has been at the centre of the way we work at Mars for decades as one of our core principles at Mars is ‘Mutuality’, which recognises that we benefit when others gain,” says Mackiewicz.

“A lot of the bigger decisions we make within Mars are based on listening and empowering our Associates to share their ideas, concerns and be part of the journey. It’s this kind of partnership that has made the company so successful.”

Mars Harnessing the Power of Iconic Brands to Inspire and Drive Consumer Awareness

Mars Sets Out Net Zero Roadmap

Mars has a significant global footprint matched by the scale of its ambitious Net Zero Roadmap, which Mackiewicz says is a source of pride at the company.

“From the factories that make our iconic snacking, food and pet nutrition products, to the veterinary hospitals and clinics that care for animals, our Roadmap outlines how it’s possible to cut emissions by 50% by 2030 and achieve net zero GHG emissions across our full value chain and business,” she says.

Mars says it will invest US$1 billion over the next three years across its entire value chain until Net Zero is achieved. 

“As things stand today, we believe that the most challenging part of the value chain reductions on the way to net zero will be the last 30% so, between now and 2030, we are investing and partnering to find solutions to specifically target these areas,” says Mackiewicz.

“As new climate science emerges, we will set future five-year interim targets accordingly, which will be shared and communicated. 

“We have some great commitments and partnerships in development, but are also ensuring we’re walking the talk now, with some strong progress and investments being made.”

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Some examples from the UK include all factories and offices being powered by renewables, and a recent pilot the trialled paper packaging for the iconic Mars bar – ironically, exactly how it first appeared on shelves when Forrest Mars Snr packaged the chocolate bar some 90 years ago.

Mackiewicz also highlights the Mars Ambassador Program which gives Associates the opportunity to directly contribute and make a positive impact on organisations and communities across the value chain. This could be anything from coral reef restoration projects in Indonesia to working with the Humane Society International doing animal life-saving work in South Africa.

“We also know that a big part of business emissions comes down to raw materials and agriculture and we’re continually exploring how we buy, what we buy and where we buy it,” says Mackiewicz.

“From the cocoa in our chocolate treats to sourcing fish for our feline friends, we’re ensuring we source through responsible, sustainable, and transparent programmes.”

If Mars continues to do business in this fashion, then it seems on track to deliver that world it wants tomorrow, and achieve its Purpose.

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