Interview
Introducing Mars: Sustainability and Beyond
AmCham Indonesia spoke with Jeffrey Haribowo, Corporate Affairs Director of Mars Indonesia, on how the company has worked towards sustainability here. Jeffrey is an experienced corporate affairs professional who has worked for several multinational companies.
Jul 19, 2021 | Fransiska Andita

Sustainability has become the key buzzword in today's business world, with consumers increasingly concerned about the environmental and social impacts of their purchases. From where ingredients are sourced to how workers are treated, waste management and recycling, companies are expected to be responsible and give back to the regions where they operate.

For new AmCham Indonesia Premier Member, Mars, sustainability is very much a priority. Mars operates in four business segments: Wrigley (chocolate and confectionery), pet care, food and Mars Edge (nutrition). With iconic brands such as Snickers, Skittles, Royal Canin and Pedigree, Mars’ presence in Indonesia dates back to 1996, specifically in Sulawesi, the nation’s main cocoa producing region. Mars has established cocoa processing factories there, sourcing networks and research facilities, as well as training and capacity building work and marine sustainability efforts in the form of reef restoration.

AmCham Indonesia spoke with Jeffrey Haribowo, Corporate Affairs Director of Mars Indonesia, on how the company has worked towards sustainability here. Jeffrey is an experienced corporate affairs professional who has worked for several multinational companies.

AmCham Indonesia: Indonesia is one of the world’s largest producers of cocoa beans. How does Mars, integrate Indonesian cocoa beans into the global supply chain?

Jeffrey Haribowo: We ship cocoa products from our processing facilities in Sulawesi to our overseas factories. The cacao we produce in Makassar is managed in a responsible way and is sourced from over 8,000 smallholder farmers, who were trained to produce cocoa beans that fulfill our quality standards.

A sustainable cocoa sector is essential not only to maintain our production, but also to protect the wellbeing of the people who produce our cacao fruits. We make sure that our cocoa is sourced from legal farmlands, not from deforested lands, primary forests, or conservation sites. In sourcing our cocoa, we uphold high human rights standards, including farmer’s rights.

Mars has been certified by the Rainforest Alliance since 2010. We map out our farmer’s plantation area to make sure that it does not trespass into surrounding forests. We also educate our farmers and provide them an application called Cocoa Trace, which has a database on plantation locations, transaction data and even international market prices for cocoa. Everything is transparent.

Sustainability is becoming significantly more important for business at a global level. What measures has Mars taken to ensure sustainability in its operations in Indonesia?

In general, we are guided by our Sustainable in a Generation Plan, which is guided by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and based on our five principles: quality, responsibility, mutuality, efficiency and freedom. There are three pillars to our Sustainable in Our Generation Plan: Healthy Planet, as our production depends on the natural resources we extract; Thriving People, because our consumers and our associates are our assets; and Nourishing Wellbeing, where we utilize science and innovation to help humans and pets have healthier and happier lives.

We adapt our Sustainable in a Generation Plan to the local situation. The key point is how partnerships with each stakeholder can improve the sustainability of our supply chain. As our business in Indonesia focuses on chocolate and confectionery, we implement our Cocoa for Generations plan, which has two pillars: Responsible Cocoa Today, Sustainable Cocoa Tomorrow. We aim to source our cocoa in an ethical and environmentally friendly way, and to promote the welfare of farmers that partner with us. This includes working toward increasing and diversifying farmers’ income, upholding human rights and the elimination of child labor. For example, we promote crop diversification as a means to capture more economic opportunities. This both increases the income crops farmers can sell and helps protect the cacao plants. We also make sure that the children who help their parents with fieldwork can still get the education they need.

Just as cocoa needs to be regenerated every 10 years, we also need regeneration of farmers. Mars has a Next Generation Program that assists young farmers and cultivates their interest to take part in cocoa farming. We also have the Cocoa Doctors program, which has empowered a thousand farmers to become "cocoapreneurs" and cocoa experts. This way, our farmers become specialists in their field and are capable of running their own businesses.

We are proud of what we have achieved in our 2019 Sustainable in a Generation Plan Scorecard. But at the end, what’s most important is putting farmer’s welfare above everything else. We need to collaborate with every stakeholder to do systemic change: from women empowerment, protection of women and children, to protecting the forest.

Does Mars cooperate with other stakeholders in Indonesia especially with the Indonesian government?

Our sustainability objectives involve lots of collaboration with different stakeholders: government, industry associations and the farmers themselves. We try to engage with these stakeholders in shaping and implementing policies.

Mars is a founding member of the Cocoa Sustainable Partnership, a forum where stakeholders such as the government, cacao processing companies and others collaborate to create sustainable cocoa in Indonesia. We also support government programs, such as the Rural Empowerment and Agriculture Development Scaling Up Initiative (READSI), where we work with the Ministry of Agriculture to achieve its vision of agricultural development: food security, enhanced welfare for farmers and helping to find a new generation of farmers. In Sulawesi, we work closely with the local forestry agencies, as many of our plantation areas border forests.

Internationally, we have a project with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and World Agroforestry called Sustainable Farming in Tropical Asian Landscapes (SFITAL), a five-year project that aims to that aims to link small-scale producers to global supply chains.

Ultimately, the key to our success is having strong values. In our case, it’s to put the farmer's needs first. This is a value we share with the government and other industry players, and it guides us in our collaborative efforts.

From Mars’ standpoint, how can businesses in Indonesia also contribute to changing the trajectory on climate change?

As climate change is complex and wide-reaching, collaboration among businesses, the public sector and civil society is essential for climate change mitigation. First, there needs to be a clear strategy for collaboration. Next, you need to agree on which targets and parameters to use, whether it’s the Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement or others. The industry and the government must bring their targets together.

How has the pandemic affected Mars’ business operations so far?

The world that we want tomorrow starts with how we do our business today. We consistently put forth our three sustainability pillars in doing our business, including in Indonesia. Despite the pandemic, we strive to keep our business running in responsible ways. We put our associates’ health and safety first in our factory operations and distribution, and give them the work flexibility they need to handle quarantine. We also invest in agricultural development and work safety for our cocoa farmers. In the end, we all have to adapt to this new situation as best as we can.

It’s impossible to assess the ultimate impact this will have on each of us, the global economy and our business. But, we have confidence that we can manage what comes.

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