Mars’ Claim of Achieving Deforestation-Free Palm Oil Nothing but Greenwash, says Rainforest Action Network

San Francisco, CA – Today, Mars, Incorporated announced that its Palm Positive Plan has delivered a deforestation-free palm oil supply chain.

Robin Averbeck, Forest Program Director at Rainforest Action Network (RAN), issued the following statement in response: 

“Mars’ claim of delivering deforestation-free palm oil is little more than greenwash. Mars is attempting to rewrite history and to be seen as a leader in transforming the palm oil sector, while in reality, Mars has failed to end deforestation in its supply chain for years. What’s more, Mars ignores its impact on the inseparable crisis facing Indigenous Peoples and local communities affected by the expansion of logging and agricultural commodity production, and the widespread exploitation of palm oil workers.

“Mars cannot be deforestation-free without a central focus on securing legal rights for Indigenous Peoples and local communities to protect and manage their lands. Yet, the company has failed to make this a central pillar in its strategy or take steps to know and disclose its forest footprint –– a critical step to identifying the forests and communities that are affected by its global supply chains across palm oil, pulp and paper, soy, beef, cocoa, and all forest-risk commodities 

“There is no transparently available independent evidence showing that Mars Palm Oil is deforestation-free, nor free of land grabs, or human rights abuses. Until this proof is made available, Mars customers, shareholders and stakeholders should not trust these empty words. 

“RAN continues to call on Mars to independently verify and disclose progress on fulfillment of its suppliers complaints against all the requirements of its palm oil policies by the end of 2020. Mars’ consumers have a right to know the company’s contribution to the destruction of forests and peatlands, their negative impacts on Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and its plans to remediate past and mitigate future harm to people and the environment.” 

More analysis:  

  • In 2014, Mars committed to “only source palm oil from companies whose entire operations meet its sourcing charter, which required an end to deforestation by year-end 2015. Compliance was required across entire operations as Mars recognized that its deforestation problem was not only in the plantation development areas where palm oil it was using was being produced, but also in areas under the control of its suppliers that were being cleared now but would take years to reach maturity and enter its supply chains. 
  • In 2015, Mars missed its first self-imposed no deforestation deadline and continued doing business with major palm oil producers responsible for the conversion and burning of rainforests, peatlands and the violation of human rights. 
  • In 2020, Mars was set to miss its 2nd deadline so it changed the goal posts through its controversial and misleading “Mars Palm Oil Positive Plan”. Mars expects to be congratulated for ending deforestation in production areas where forests were long ago cleared to make way for industrial plantations.
  • Mars has chosen to “simplify its palm supply chain and partner with a smaller cohort of suppliers” — the corporate groups it has chosen to continue doing business with continue to be exposed for forest fires and their ties to actors destroying tropical rainforests in the Leuser Ecosystem (see here, here, here, and here) and the widespread exploitation of workers recently documented and exposed to be occurring through-out Malaysia where Mars sources a majority of its palm oil from.