Mars Incorporated has announced a new sustainable palm oil policy, which commits Mars to both industry-leading standards and to developing a fully traceable pipeline back to known palm oil processing mills by the end of the year. The initiative is supported by the company's new zero-deforestation policy, which focuses on its sources of palm oil, beef, soy, pulp and paper.
The policy will also require all of Mars' suppliers to confirm their commitment to the principles in Mars' sourcing charter by the end of 2014, and have a fully sustainable and traceable palm oil supply across their operations or to have plans in place for doing so by the end of 2015.
While Mars says its palm oil use accounts for only .2 percent of global use, the company has been a member of the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) since 2010. Mars purchased 100 percent of its palm oil last year from RSPO-certified sources via the “mass balance” program, which requires processors to purchase palm oil from certified sources but allows them to mix it with conventional palm oil during transportation, processing and packaging. Under the new policy, all palm oil received by Mars will be continue to be RSPO-certified but must also be fully traceable and compliant with the additional standards set by the Company.
“Rapid expansion of palm oil plantations continues to threaten environmentally sensitive areas of tropical rainforest and carbon-rich peatlands, as well as the rights of communities that depend on them for their livelihoods. We have recognized that even though we have already implemented a 100 percent certified supply of palm oil this is not enough. We believe that these additional measures will not only help build a genuinely sustainable pipeline for Mars, but will also help accelerate change across the industry by encouraging our suppliers to only source from companies whose plantations and farms are responsibly run.” said Barry Parkin, Chief Sustainability Officer at Mars.
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The company also announced that it has become a member of The Forest Trust, a global nonprofit that will work with its suppliers in mills and plantations to help them build traceability and verify that they meet Mars’ sourcing criteria. Mars will report progress on its commitments annually and provide updates every six months on its website.
With demand continuing to rise for palm oil due to its use in a variety of products, a spotlight has been shown on the destructive nature of the industry. Palm oil production is the largest driver of deforestation in South East Asia and parts of Africa and South America, highlighting the need for sustainable practices; unfortunately, a recent scorecard by the Union of Concerned Scientists showed that most companies were not making good on their palm oil sourcing commitments, if they had made one at all. Though recent pledges from L’Oréal and Unilever both scored in the 80th percentile for their comprehensive approach to the issue, Kellogg’s commitment to fully traceable palm oil last month only scored 52.8%, since UCS said it “lacks deforestation- and peat-free commitments and [has] weak traceability or transparency commitments.” It will be interesting to see how Mars’ new plan stacks up in comparison.