SUSTAINABLE SOURCING FOR THE FUTURE
Rice is an incredible food — and given that it’s a staple for half the global population, it needs to be protected. As the maker of UNCLE BEN’S®, the world’s largest global rice brand, we are working to create a sustainable, long-term rice supply that can support our business growth while helping to meet the nutritional needs of a growing global population.
PRINCIPLES IN ACTION 2015 SPOTLIGHT: RICE TARGET
We’ve committed to source 100 percent of our rice from Sustainable Rice Platform farmers (SRP) by 2020 and are working with other manufacturers and global NGOs to expand adoption of the standards outlined by the SRP.
2020 TARGET: 100 PERCENT OF OUR RICE FROM SUSTAINABLE RICE PLATFORM FARMERS
PROGRESS: NEW TARGET IN 2015
THE ROAD AHEAD: A MUTUAL SOLUTION FOR RICE
"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. Through the global standard, we hope to create benefits for all involved from the farmers to our consumers. The benefit for us is that we are ensuring premium quality rice, while also ensuring a higher income for farmers, and a better environment for current and future generations. It is a truly mutual solution."
— Fiona Dawson, Global President of Mars Food, Drinks, and Multisales
RESEARCHING LOWER-IMPACT RICE
To improve rice sustainability, we’ve invested in research at leading universities, such as the University of California-Davis and the University of Arkansas, to better understand the impacts of a farming method called “alternate wetting and drying” on water use, greenhouse gas emissions and farmer income. The research has shown that this method can reduce water use by 30 percent and lower greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent, all without reducing crop yields. We have successfully introduced this method and other water mitigation techniques with our farmers in the United States. And we are setting up water efficiency programs in water-stressed regions in Pakistan, India and Spain, as well.
Implementing these new rice farming methods around the world could transform rice production, significantly reduce its impact on the environment, and help ensure the availability of quality rice for Mars Food and millions of families across the globe for decades to come.
PARTNERING WITH RICE FARMERS
By working with basmati rice farmers in Pakistan and India, we’re improving farmer education, increasing crop yields and reducing water use. We’re strengthening our supply chain and the communities we depend on, ultimately bringing you a wider array of specialty rice products.
Mars Food is partnering with the International Rice Research Institute, Swiss-based NGO Helvetas, Bayer Crop Science, Rice Partners Ltd., LT Foods, Sunstar, UTZ and the World Wildlife Fund to implement sustainable rice cultivation with basmati rice farmers. We are working with almost 2,000 farmers in India and Pakistan, helping them learn new techniques to improve water efficiency, reduce and safely manage their use of fertilizers and pesticides, and improve the health and safety of farm workers. As a result of these efforts, in Pakistan, we have seen a 75 percent increase in farmer income and a 17 percent increase in yield. From 2017 through 2019, we plan to set up similar programs in Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
As more farmers learn sustainable rice farming techniques — and more manufacturers commit to sourcing sustainable rice — we can greatly improve the sustainability of the global rice supply.
Mubasahar Naveed Wagha
Village Khairpur Mallian
“I’ve been a contract farmer for the last 4 years. Rice Partners, Ltd. respects us. They visit us regularly during both the sowing and harvesting seasons. They give us very good prices and their method of payment is swift.”
Village Khairpur Mallian
"3 years ago, I became a contract farmer. Since then, the Rice Partners, Ltd. team has guided me on proper farming practice. They visited us weekly and gave us fruitful advice through training programs and rice experts."
“I have been a contract farmer for the last 3 years. They have a quality team that visits us regularly and advises us on what to do and what not to do including pesticide and fungicide usage and timing. Because of this my crop quality has improved."
THE SUSTAINABLE RICE PLATFORM
While we are committed to advancing rice sustainability, we cannot change global rice production alone. Even though we have one of the largest global rice brands, we buy less than 0.5% of the total global supply. By partnering with others in our industry and leading non-governmental organizations, we hope to increase the amount of rice being produced sustainably, and support more farmers and their communities.
We’re proud to be a leading member of the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), a global multi-stakeholder alliance led by the United Nations Environmental Program and the International Rice Research Institute. This alliance also is comprised of dozens of government agencies, private-sector corporations, research institutions, and NGOs, including the World Wildlife Fund, Utz, Fairtrade, Oxfam, and the Rainforest Alliance.
In October 2015, the SRP launched the first-ever global standard for sustainable rice. Working together, members of the SRP have developed a set of criteria for sustainable rice cultivation that can be used around the world to reduce the environmental footprint of rice production and improve the lives of rice farmers. The SRP standard assesses suppliers on 46 requirements around key topics, including:
- Food safety
- Worker health
- Labor rights
Mars Food played a leading role in the development of the SRP standard. We are using the standard to verify our rice supply chains and drive improvements to reach our goal of 100% of our rice from SRP farmers by 2020.
The primary improvement programs we defined and are implementing include:
- Our women economic empowerment program seeks to improve the access of women farmers and workers to important resources, advancing their empowerment and bettering their livelihoods. For example, mobile health clinics in Pakistan provide women, as well as men, working in rice fields with access to much-needed doctors and medicines. In India, a qualitative study on gender roles in the rice supply chain will be conducted to develop new initiatives improving girls’ education and diversifying incomes in rice communities.
- To reduce our water footprint and improve water quality, we are working with farmer champions to introduce water mitigation techniques, such as the direct seeding of rice (DSR) that can save up to 25 percent of the water typically used in rice production. Improved water stewardship has stimulated collaboration between local stakeholders. Over the coming years, these actions will help the environment be more resilient to drought and climate change, protecting rice production in these areas.
- Our farmer income program focuses on improving yields and lowering input costs for rice farmers. Our rice farmers also receive payments above the market price and are assisted in setting up bank accounts so that they can benefit from swifter payment schemes. Farmers’ improved cash flow enables them to quickly repay other parties for leasing land and other interests.
- To improve human rights standards in rice-growing regions, farmers and workers are educated on safe practices for handling and applying fertilizers and pesticides. In 2016, washing areas, personal protective equipment, medical kits and safe storage facilities were installed on farms. This benefited not only farmer households and workers, but also the communities and the environment in which they operate. Further, we seek to work only with suppliers and other organizations in our supply chain that can consistently meet our standards and specifications as laid out in our Responsible Sourcing strategy and Supplier Code of Conduct.
Jim (right) and Sam Whitaker (left) on their rice farm in Arkansas, U.S.A.
“Using innovative rice-farming methods [that are] supported by Mars Food, I’ve been able to use 20 percent less fertilizer, 50 percent less water and become one of the first U.S. rice growers to sell carbon offsets, using the protocol of the California Cap and Trade Compliance market. In addition, I use fall precipitation to have an optimum shallow-water environment for migrating waterfowl, shore birds and eagles.” — Jim Whitaker, Jim Whitaker Farms
George Denny (right), owner of Goose Valley Ranch, and Ted deBraga (left), Goose Valley Ranch Manager, on their farm in California, U.S.A.
“We have initiated many sustainable practices on our family-owned ranch, because we know that they will pay off, for our ranch and for the environment, over the long term. We generate renewable energy from irrigation water, support diverse wildlife in the area and have improved soil quality. The Goose Valley Ranch and SunWest Foods team greatly value our relationship with Mars Food and proudly embrace the sustainability standards Mars is striving to achieve.” — George Denny, Goose Valley Ranch
Mars Associates are working with technical experts and farmers to make rice a more sustainable crop.