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Mars Latest to Announce "No Deforestation" Palm Oil Pledge

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WASHINGTON - The multinational food giant Mars, Inc. unveiled Monday a new set of guidelines aimed at ensuring that its palm oil supply lines are completely traceable and sustainable by next year.

Global demand for palm oil has increased substantially in recent years, for use in both foods and household goods. Yet the industry, overwhelmingly centered in Malaysia and Indonesia, has been rife with environmental and labor problems.

Recent months, however, have seen a cascade of major reform commitments from both palm oil suppliers and well-known consumer brands such as Mars.

"Rapid expansion of palm oil plantations continues to threaten environmentally sensitive areas of tropical rainforest and carbon-rich peatlands, as well as the rights of communities that depend on them for their livelihoods," Barry Parkin, chief sustainability officer at Mars, best known as the maker of M&Ms and other candies, said Monday.

"We believe that these additional measures will not only help build a genuinely sustainable pipeline for Mars, but will also help accelerate change across the industry by encouraging our suppliers to only source from companies whose plantations and farms are responsibly run."

Under the new guidelines, Mars will require that all of its suppliers have in place sourcing plans that are both fully sustainable and fully traceable by the end of this year, to be implemented by the end of 2015. The company, headquartered just outside of Washington, is also instituting a "no deforestation" pledge for its palm oil supply as well as its sourcing of paper pulp, soy and beef.

"Four years ago, Nestle decided to go for full traceability and no deforestation, but at the time that decision was seen as very niche because it was being pushed by environmental activists," Bastien Sachet, director of the Forest Trust, a global watchdog group that focuses on responsible products and whose newest member is Mars, told IPS.

"The great thing about Mars, particularly in their push against deforestation across commodities, is that this isn't an activist-led commitment. They're doing it because they want to do it, which means that they see what's happening."   
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