THE BLOG

Business Must Lead Collaboration to Meet the G7's Fossil Fuel Ambitions

06/12/2015 02:23 pm ET | Updated Jun 12, 2016

This week, the G7 leaders convened in a Bavarian castle and announced a landmark commitment to phase out fossil fuels by 2100. This is a hugely important step on the road to, as Angela Merkel put it, 'decarbonizing the global economy in the course of this century'.

I applaud big, broad commitments like this one. But actually delivering on it will require more than economic policy or government programs. Business can and must step up to the challenge. Just imagine if every large global business, and in time every business, committed to "decarbonize" their operations--wouldn't that make a massive impact?

At Mars, Incorporated, we know it's going to be important for companies to lead on climate change. That's why we have declared our own decarbonization commitment: to eliminate the use of fossil fuel energy and greenhouse gas emissions from our operations by 2040. This year we will reach our first critical milestone on the road, reducing our emissions by 25%, and continuing to execute our solid plan to get to zero.

The fact is, it is possible today for major businesses to make a bold commitment that they can deliver on over the next couple of decades.

These are ambitious goals--and they need to be. Left unmitigated, the consequences of climate change will put habitats, communities and ultimately the whole planet at risk. For the food industry, the threat is very real, and it is happening now. Climate change is already affecting the security of the food supply chain, threatening the livelihoods of farmers as well as the future of the food that ends up on our plates. Without supply chain security, food companies like us don't have a business.

Without question, the G7 call to arms is an important step, but it's how business responds to the ambitious targets that will turn this historic announcement into real change. Business must lead the way in forming collaborations--with governments, NGOs and consumers--agreeing on goals, sharing resources, and working together to take serious action to address the scale of the threat. In fact, collaboration will be one of a number of items on the agenda for this year's Sustainable Innovation Forum in Paris, where participants from across public and private sectors will convene to find new and innovative opportunities to work together to address climate change more rapidly.

At Mars, one of our own collaborations--with Sumitomo Corporation of America, General Electric and the state of Texas--has resulted in the Mesquite Creek wind farm, located just outside the town of Lamesa. On line and operational since March of this year, Mesquite Creek is already generating the equivalent of 100% of the electricity we need to power the entirety of Mars's U.S. operations. We're proud to have taken this major step forward in "decarbonizing" our own footprint, and heartened to have shown that by working together with committed partners, we can achieve more--and more quickly--than by working alone.

Based on our experience, I believe that if every major business in the world simply took some initial steps to decarbonize their own operations, it would make the G7 goal-line of 2100 seem very achievable. And that's welcome news, because as we know, science is asking for speedier action to protect the planet.

Taking on this responsibility is perhaps the most important challenge facing business today. Companies who do so will soon see, as we did, that taking steps to "decarbonize" their footprints can yield enormous results both for the planet and the efficiency of their operations. This is the kind of win-win everyone in business should be looking for. Indeed, it's essential to generating growth we can all be proud of--and, importantly, live with.