Chances are, you have a box or bag of rice in your pantry right now. The chances also are you consider it a given — that rice is plentiful and a food source so popular across the world it could never be in short supply.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The demand for rice is expected to double by 2050, and farming rice is a remarkably tedious process that’s often done by smallholder farmers rather than large industrialized operations. With their small scale, that also means that livelihoods of these farmers depend entirely on keeping their crops growing to sustain their families. Planting more rice isn’t usually an option, and even if it were, hypothetically doubling the world’s rice production would have a massive impact on the environment due to the water use and greenhouse gas emissions that come along with the growing process.
As the owner of the world’s largest global rice brand, Uncle Bens®, Mars Food plans to lead the way in making rice more sustainable. That’s why we’ve become a member of the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), the first-ever global standard for sustainable rice. Everyone in the rice supply chain will be able to use this standard to reduce the environmental footprint of growing rice and improve the lives of rice farmers.
We helped shape the SRP standard and we will be using it to sustainably source 100 percent of our rice by 2020. We’ve already started to pilot the SRP standard in India and Pakistan. Partnering with Bayer CropScience and the International Rice Research Institute, we invested in a controlled farming program in Pakistan, and are now rolling it out to parts of India. The key has been offering incentives to farmers to take part — we can then provide training and support on how to make their farms more sustainable. It’s a win-win for all involved.
“The main benefit from the training is that it's now easier to sell my rice.”
— Tong Chat, rice farmer in Cambodia
Our efforts to improve the sustainability of global rice production are part of our wider corporate commitment to tackle the greatest environmental and social impacts in our supply chain. Since 2007, our sustainable sourcing strategy has focused on six raw materials: cocoa, fish, mint, palm oil, peanuts and rice. In 2014, we added commitments on beef, soy, and paper and pulp. All told, the updated sourcing strategy by Mars will cover 23 raw materials, covering 60 percent of our sourcing volume. We have a lot of work still to do, but we’re proud of some of our key achievements to date:
- 84 percent of our palm oil is now traceable to known mills
- 26 percent of our fish and seafood are from sustainable sources, putting us on track to fulfill our target of only sourcing 100 percent sustainable fish by 2020
- We’ve increased our purchase of certified cocoa to 36 percent of total volumes, moving closer to our target of 100 percent certified cocoa by 2020.
- In 2014, 82.5 percent of our packaging was recyclable or recoverable, where infrastructure exists.
We can’t solve this challenge alone. We must all come together today to ensure that tomorrow’s generations are able to eat, cultivate and make a living by farming rice in a sustainable manner.