US confectionery and food product giant Mars claims it has eliminated deforestation from its palm oil supply chain, Greenbiz reported on 7 October.

The producer of Mars and Snickers chocolate bars, Dolmio pasta sauce and Uncle Ben’s rice made the announcement as part of its Palm Positive Plan, which it launched in 2019.

The adoption of shorter, more transparent palm oil supply chains and working exclusively with suppliers that met specific environmental, social and ethical standards had made it easier for the company to keep track of its supply chain, Greenbiz said.

Mars said it had simplified its supply chain by shrinking the number of mills it worked with from 1,500 to a few hundred. This number was expected to be reduced to less than 100 in 2021 and below 50 in 2022.

Mars CEO Grant Reid said he believed a transformational approach would be critical in helping to tackle global environmental and social challenges.

“Supply chains – the engines behind global business – are broken. The pandemic has made this even clearer. Business as usual will not drive the transformational change that’s needed.”

Mars said it had used satellite mapping to monitor land use with third-party validation through its partnership with Earth Equalizer/Aidenvironment. This allowed it to take evidence-based action to simplify and select the suppliers and mills it sourced from.

One example was in its supply chain to its Asia-Pacific businesses, where it sourced palm oil from UniFuji – a partnership between United Plantations and Fuji Oil – which had reduced operations from 780 mills to just one.

This had been achieved through a 1:1:1 model – which meant oil palm was grown on one plantation, and processed through one mill and one refinery before reaching Mars.

Barry Parkin, chief procurement and sustainability officer at Mars, said that the company was hoping its efforts would have a ripple effect across the palm oil industry.

“To extend this impact beyond our own supply, we are asking our suppliers to apply these principles to all the palm oil that they source, not just the material they supply to us,” he said.

Tropical Forest Alliance executive director Justin Adams commended the multinational for achieving net-zero deforestation in its palm supply chain, but warned that collective action would be needed to tackle problems across the global sector.

“It is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the company over the last 10 years, and we need to see more companies embrace the logic of the three-M model – map, manage, monitor – that they have laid out,” Adams said.

“But Mars’ success today also highlights the limits of individual leadership. We can only stop deforestation by working collectively in key production landscapes and across the entire sector.”

The Palm Positive Plan is part of the company’s US$1bn Sustainable in a Generation Plan. Within this, Mars is working to stop deforestation and degradation in five materials identified as having the greatest risks for driving deforestation: beef, cocoa, palm oil, pulp and paper, and soya.