Mars Food, in partnership with the Sustainable Rice Platform, (SRP), a global alliance of agricultural research institutions, agri-food businesses, public sector and civil society organizations convened by UNEP and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), yesterday announced the first global standard for sustainable rice in Manila, Philippines.
As the leading corporation with the SRP and owner of the world’s largest rice brand, Uncle Ben’s, Mars Food played a pivotal role in developing the standard. Mars Food also announced today its commitment to sustainably source 100 percent of its rice by 2020 using the SRP standard.
“Caring for our environment as well as our entire supply chain from end-to-end is more than usual corporate responsibility. It’s an imperative for Mars Food,” said Fiona Dawson, President of Mars Food. “Through the global standard, we hope to create benefits for all involved from the farmers to our consumers. The benefit for us is that is that we are ensuring premium quality rice, whilst also ensuring a higher income for farmers, and a better environment for current and future generations. It is a truly mutual solution.”
The SRP standard consists of a set of criteria for sustainable rice cultivation that can be used across the globe to reduce the environmental footprint of rice production and improve the lives of rice farmers. The standard consists of 46 requirements organized under eight broad topics, including productivity, food safety, worker health, labor rights, and biodiversity. Rice plays a critical role in global food security, providing livelihoods for over 140 million smallholder farmers in developing countries and is a staple food for nearly half of the world’s seven billion people.
Mars Food will use the standard as a benchmark against which to assess its rice supply chains – identifying where there are gaps and developing strategies to improve sustainability. Mars Food has already begun piloting implementation of the standard with rice farmers in two countries – Pakistan and India.
A controlled farming program in Pakistan, in partnership with Rice Partners, LTD, IRRI and Bayer CropScience, has grown from 31 smallholder farmers in 2011 to 400 farmers in 2015 who produce Basmati rice grown with the correct application of chemicals and harvested with practices to improve food safety and water quality. In India, Mars is embedding new learnings while also piloting the SRP standard.
The standard complements and builds upon the company’s Purpose – Better Food Today. A Better World Tomorrow – and the Mars Mutuality Principle, which demonstrate the company’s commitment to helping rice farmers improve yields while reducing water use and greenhouse gas emissions and improving socio-economic conditions in the communities where high-quality rice is grown.
Mars, Inc. is an American global manufacturer of confectionery, pet food, and other food products with US$33 billion in annual sales in 2013, and is ranked as the 6th largest privately held company in the United States by Forbes. The company was named by Fortune magazine as one of the top 100 companies to work for in 2013, citing the example that employees of the pet food division can take their dogs to work.