Knowledge for better food systems

How Mars and WRI Developed Science-based Sustainability Targets for climate, land and water

This blog on the World Resources Institute’s (WRI) website discusses their collaboration with food multinational Mars in developing science-based sustainability targets for climate, land use, and water.

The approach taken focuses on finding a business model that takes into account ecological threats and limits and adapts company strategy accordingly. WRI writes that ‘most companies set sustainability targets based on what is considered feasible or competitive rather than what is necessary to preserve Earth’s resources for future generations.’ They cite as evidence that out of 40,000 corporate sustainability reports published between 2000 and 2014, only about 5 percent mention ecological limits.

You can read the blog here.

They also outlined their methodology in a working paper: ‘From Doing Better to Doing Enough: Anchoring Corporate Sustainability Targets in Science’ which can be found here

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John Kazer's picture
Submitted by John Kazer (not verified) on

I have also been involved in a number of projects which have taken a similar approach, also ultimately based upon Johan Rockstrom's planetary boundaries concept.  The term "Science Based Targets" is becoming popular in the commercial world as a way of adding some rigour to corporate target setting, following a phase of "finger in the air" approaches.

Projects with a related approach include the following.  Note that you can apply the same reasoning to a company, sector or a country.

Here we talked about the UK diet, based upon analysis that assessed the GHG, land and water impact of our diet and put this in context of their respective boundaries.

https://www.carbontrust.com/resources/reports/advice/the-case-for-protein-diversity/ (external site)

http://www.fcrn.org.uk/research-library/case-protein-diversity-accelerating-adoption-more-sustainable-eating-patterns-uk (FCRN reference)

Similarly, we also worked with Public Health England to assess the relative impact of diets that conformed to the old and the new Eatwell Guide.  This assessment showed how much better the new Guide performed against the physical boundaries for GHG, water and land - whilst still leaving a number of challenges given all the other activities we do other than eating!

https://www.carbontrust.com/resources/reports/advice/sustainable-diets/ (external site)

http://www.fcrn.org.uk/research-library/sustainability-assessment-carbon-trust-new-uk-eatwell-guide (FCRN reference)