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Centering Recovery Efforts Around the Most Vulnerable

Originally published on LinkedIn by Lisa Manley, Vice President, Sustainability at Mars

At Mars, we’re thinking a lot these days about how to do business during a humanitarian, health and economic crisis where there is no playbook. 

Like most global businesses, we rely on complex supply chains around the world to source raw materials, manufacture and distribute our products, and keep the service end of our business functioning. The global supply chains we depend upon are currently facing intense pressure, and we’re already seeing troubling trends affecting people who work within them.

  • Increased job loss and poverty risks: The International Labour Organization estimates that 1.6 billion people—more than half of the total global working population—are in danger of losing their livelihoods due to the coronavirus pandemic. World Bank data predicts that global poverty rates may rise for the first time since 1998, while Oxfam reports that 500 million people may fall back into poverty as a result of this pandemic.
  • Increased vulnerability to human rights risks: The coronavirus will hit the world’s most vulnerable people the hardest. Many migrant workers are displaced from jobs during lockdowns and closures, unable to return to their home communities and at increased risk for forced labor. Risks of child labor are increasing, particularly in agricultural communities, where household incomes are declining and schools are closed. At the same time, law enforcement officials and supply chain monitoring systems may also have decreased visibility to working conditions.
  • Significant impact on women and girls: This pandemic is disproportionately impacting women and girls, who generally earn less, save less and work in jobs that are less secure. With or without jobs, women tend to bear the brunt of caring for children and other family members. Further adding to the burden on women, UN Women reports a “shadow pandemic” of dramatic increases in domestic violence around the world.

What Can Business Do About the Global Risks?

As Mars responds to this emergency, we are taking action in our workplaces, supply chains and communities.

  • In our workplaces, our priority is to protect the health and safety of our workforce. Since late February, we’ve had restrictions on travel and meetings and have tens of thousands of Associates working from home. We have also restricted visitors to all our sites with exceptions only for people critical to operations, or the safety of Mars Associates, pets or products. In essential facilities, like factories, labs and veterinary hospitals, new health and safety procedures have been put in place, including social distancing, health screenings, additional site cleanings and strict use of personal protective equipment.
  • In our supply chains, we’re investing in new research through the Farmer Income Lab to understand how poverty hotspot mapping can identify increased risks from COVID-19, so we can prioritize and logistically manage specific supply chains and areas for action. We will continue to support practical regulation on human rights due diligence, which is being considered in some regions as part of their COVID-19 related response. Coupled with support from governments and civic organizations increasing investments in robust systems that identify, address and prevent human rights risks across supply chains can help business to understand and improve working conditions.
  • In the communities where we live, work, source and operate, we’ve committed an initial cash and in-kind contribution of $20 million to support those most affected by COVID-19. This includes $5 million to our existing partner, CARE, to provide critical supplies and support to women, children and refugees across West Africa, Southeast Asia and other regions; $2 million to the United Nations World Food Programme for emergency food and lifesaving protective gear for UN agencies as they respond to the pandemic; and $1 million to the Humane Society International to help cats and dogs that have been abandoned, left behind or surrendered.

We are all connected—from farmers and factory workers to families at the dinner table. Now, more than ever, global businesses must step up our efforts to respond, recover and build resilience so that people throughout our value chain can thrive. Business as usual isn’t an option. As a global corporation, Mars embraces our challenge and responsibility to work hand in hand with government and civic organizations to #BuildBackBetter. 

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