When it comes to corporate sustainability, Mars matters.
Mars has an impact, first of all, because of the company’s heft. With $30 billion in revenues and more than 65,000 workers around the world, Mars is the world’s second largest chocolate company (behind Kraft, which owns Cadbury). It's also the world’s largest branded rice company (Uncle Ben’s), one of the world’s largest pet food companies (Pedigree, Whiskas) and the world’s largest chewing gum company (Wrigley, Orbit, Doublemint).
The company stands out because unlike most big companies, its sustainability goals are guided by science. By 2040, Mars says, its offices and factories will use no fossil fuels and emit no greenhouse gases -- because scientists believe that greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by 80 percent by 2050, and getting to zero in the company's offices and factories will be needed for Mars to do its share. In agriculture, where it has the greatest power to influence change, the company also pledged to buy 100 percent of its cocoa, coffee, tea, fish and palm oil from sources certified as sustainable by third parties.
Owned by the Mars family, which began making candy in 1911, it's well known for its private nature. There’s no sign on the unassuming offices at its headquarters, for example. And reporters aren’t often invited inside.
Until recently, the company has been reluctant to talk about its business.
“Kind of like Russia before Perestroika,” says a pal of mine who years ago did legal work for Mars.
Next page: Pulling back the curtain