While we were at COP28, we caught up with Autumn Fox, Climate Sustainability Senior Manager at Mars, to understand how she is navigating a global supply chain towards Net Zero. Autumn plays a pivotal role in Mars’ corporate environmental team, overseeing their Climate, Land and Deforestation targets (involving a hefty amount of internal and external stakeholder collaboration and upskilling), SBTi target setting and keeping on top of the latest protocols.
Team Set Up: Centralised Strategy Team With Decentralised Delivery
Mars has a central corporate environmental team (made up of 14 professionals) that provides business segments across the company (e.g., snacks and confectionery, pet food and health), with the information and tools to contribute to Mars’ Science Based Targets. The business segments own the execution and resource allocation to hit those targets. This was a strategic organisational move. A decentralised structure ensures that those closest to the products and brands can roll out sustainability initiatives, ensuring that sustainability strategies are fully integrated into business plans and budgets.
The Mars Net Zero Roadmap
With ambitions to reach Net Zero by 2050, Mars unveiled a comprehensive Net Zero Roadmap, detailing the steps to reach this milestone.
A few roadmap specifics:
Set an SBTi target to cut GHGs in half by 2030 compared to 2015 baseline year.
Redesign their supply chains to stop deforestation by 2025.
Optimise recipe design – developing new lower GHG-footprint ingredients for snacks and human-food dishes, as well as alternative proteins for pet food.
Transition to 100% renewable energy across factories, offices, vets, farmers, retailers and consumers.
Key (very relatable) decarbonisation challenges:
Agricultural complexity: The sheer volume of farmers (we’re talking hundreds of thousands in the case of Mars) alongside different crop types and farming techniques make decarbonisation a complex challenge.
Deep supply chains: Tracking emissions from farm to consumer is particularly painful. Most farmer supply lines (before even getting to the factory gate) will involve numerous players e.g., soy produced in Brazil is then fed to poultry in the Netherlands who are born on one farm and reared on another.
Finding consistency in data collection: It’s hard to apply a ‘one size fits all’ approach to data collection when primary data is only available for certain activities. This is particularly true for downstream emissions e.g., accounting for an Amazon delivery of groceries vs consumers travelling to a grocery store. Over time those retailers will improve the data available on distance travelled, vehicle type, and fuel type whereas you’re always going to have to rely on proxies for consumer travel.
Drive internal engagement through business units (not the sustainability team): Mars’ Net Zero Roadmap involved participation from an impressive 500 stakeholders. The secret to the quality and quantity of engagement: shifting ownership to business units. Instead of asking the sustainability team what is possible, the leadership team empowered each business unit to identify their path to a 50% reduction by 2030. This framing unlocked potential beyond the limitations of the sustainability team's resources and encouraged broader employee buy-in.
Pursue pre-competitive collaboration: Pre-competitive collaboration is no walk in the park and sustainability as a business activity is no exemption. Look out for areas where pre-competitive collaboration offers a unique value proposition to your business. For example, Mars joined the Sustainable Dairy Partnership, alongside other dairy buyers and processors such as Kerry Group, Arla, Mondelez and Starbucks. Together they consolidated supplier survey asks and aligned the industry on a standardised reporting framework. This streamlined supplier engagement and accelerated supplier partnerships for on-the-ground intervention projects to reduce their joint footprint.
Tailored supplier engagement: Instead of imposing a 'one size fits all' approach, each business unit at Mars tailors its supplier engagement strategy to its specific needs. While individual teams adopt unique procurement techniques, Mars offers a standardised program across units called S-LoCT (launched in collaboration with industry peers like PepsiCo, Mondelez, and YUM). This initiative sponsors and invites suppliers to participate in a series of "boot camp" sessions to develop their GHG inventories and establish SBTs. With nearly 650 supplier companies having completed the program, over 49% of Mars' Scope 3 emissions are now covered by suppliers who have set SBT targets or are actively engaged in S-LoCT participation.
Consider personal sustainability: Sustainability professionals are at the forefront of trying to accelerate system transformation while managing the impact of unprecedented ecosystem changes. It can be very overwhelming. It is crucial to intentionally manage your energy and well being so that you can work skillfully and sustainably on these generational challenges. This episode of Outrage and Optimism by Christina Figures, outlines mindfulness tactics for sustainability professionals - it's a MUST listen. Autumn also practices meditation and Qi Gong to help manage physical and mental stress and generate energy and creativity.