Mars plans to fully trace palm oil

by Jeff Gelski
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MCLEAN, VA. — Mars, Inc. on March 10 introduced a sourcing charter that requires all of its suppliers to have a sustainable and traceable palm oil supply across all their operations by the end of 2015, or to have plans in place for doing so.

The suppliers also must confirm their commitment to the sourcing charter by the end of 2014. The charter includes such provisions as no development in areas of high conservation value, no development in high carbon stock forest areas and no development on peat lands regardless of depth.

McLean-based Mars is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, an organization made up of oil palm growers, palm oil processors and traders, consumer goods manufacturers, non-government organizations (N.G.O.s), banks and investors, and retailers. Mars sources 100% of its palm oil from sources certified by the R.S.P.O.

“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,” said Barry Parkin, chief sustainability officer of Mars. “We have recognized that even though we have already implemented a 100% 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.”

The Rainforest Action Network, San Francisco, applauded Mars’ actions.

“Today’s announcement is a victory for the people and wildlife of Indonesia and Malaysia,” said Gemma Tillack, senior agribusiness campaigner at the Rainforest Action Network. “Mars has taken an important first step forward by publicly declaring it will only source palm oil from companies who are not clearing rainforests, destroying carbon-rich peatlands or causing human rights violations.”

Mars sources palm oil through a mass balance model. It requires processors to purchase palm oil from certified sources but allows the processors to mix the palm oil with conventional palm oil during transportation, processing and packaging.

“We believe the benefits of segregating sustainable palm oil from regular supplies are not great enough to justify the costs for suppliers or the premium passed on to companies buying palm oil,” Mars said. “It is our position that sourcing R.S.P.O.-certified palm oil via mass balance, while also going beyond R.S.P.O. criteria by developing a fully traceable pipeline, is a more effective way to transform the entire supply chain.

“Mars will buy segregated sustainable palm oil where it is readily available at an acceptable premium, but we do not require our suppliers to introduce segregated systems.”

Besides palm oil, Mars will focus on other raw materials such as beef, pulp and paper, and soy in a new de-forestation policy. Mars has become a member of The Forest Trust, a global non-profit organization. Field teams from The Forest Trust will work with Mars suppliers in mills and plantations to help them build traceability and verify their fresh fruit bunch supply meets Mars’ sourcing charter.
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