Image: AP

With few exceptions, any decent gesture made by a massive corporation isn’t altruistic; it’s very clearly to bolster its own bottom line. We know this! Why do so many companies (cough, DOVE) pretend otherwise? But Mars Inc.—manufacturer of the eponymous chocolate bar and Wrigley’s chewing gum, among others— is spending $1 billion on sustainability initiatives, and not just because it will keep what’s left of the planet from shriveling into a wizened little husk. It’s because it turns out sustainability is lucrative as fuck. 

“There is a very concrete business case to this,” Barry Parkin, chief procurement and sustainability officer at Mars, told Bloomberg. “We’re going to get a payback on that billion several times over.”

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To achieve this massive payback, Parkin is allocating roughly a third of the fund to making more efficient use of energy and water, and another third to simplify supply chains and buy directly from farmers. The rest will be used to recreate the company’s recipes without artificial ingredients.

Why? Because despite the better efforts of our own regressive government, much of the rest of the world is actively working to curb climate change, and pressure is mounting on large corporations to adjust accordingly. Parkin realizes that as a global company that buys two percent of the world’s palm oil (!), Mars better get its act together or it will get left behind.

“It’s the end of the commodity era, the nature of a commodity is that it’s the same everywhere and you can just buy on price and no one asked or knew where it came from,” he said. “That’s no longer acceptable.”

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Music to my ears! (Eyes?) And still, there’s more! The company has a target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2040. Once it hits that target, it plans to trim pollution across its supply chain.

“Partly because it’s the right thing to do but also partly because there’s already a price on carbon and we only expect it to increase,” he said. “With 26 million tons of CO2 in our extended supply chain, even if you took a conservative $20 per ton view on that, that’s half a billion dollars of cost. When we have a significantly smaller footprint than our competitors, we’ll have a cost advantage.”

Now we just have to make sure they actually do it.