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Net-zero carbon and your supply chain

Grant Reid, CEO of Mars, has an excellent insight into how current approaches to supply and value chains and the challenges needed to meet net-zero carbon aspirations, in an article which appeared in The Guardian ( https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/oct/05/mars-ceo-grant-reid-net-zero-emissions-business ).

We need to develop an end to end supply chain insight into the production of carbon to make sure we are aware of and address the full spread of emissions. Agriculture makes up 75% of Mar’s emissions, taken in the broader context of a complex value chain ending with customer use of their products.

The implications of this for our understanding and influencing of supply chains are profound. We need to get an overview of how the complete supply chain is constructed and how we flow our expectations for Net Zero Carbon ( and any other corporate objective, such as adherence to modern slavery regulations) through that supply chain.

Our belief is that category management provides the ideal tool to address these issues. A well-developed category strategy will have the core strategic elements flowing through from the business requirements into the rest of the process. The business needs to agree on which categories need early attention and provide the usual guidance to make sure the strategies are adapted in manageable time frames.

Reid talks about the necessary time frames; he is clear that getting on with the development of new approaches needs to start now, as there is a lot of complexity and difficulty across all the potential changes. Although we don’t have to deliver everything tomorrow, we are swiftly approaching the point at which our customers will expect development. We can take market advantage from addressing this earlier. Starting now also allows more room for longer-term solutions to be developed, and there will be a host of those required as we look at the impact of extended supply chains, recycling and reuse, minimised transport and more. In some areas, we may have to redesign supply chains that have been relatively stable for tens of years.

We also need to develop what we mean by net-zero carbon. As Reid points out, there is a considerable breadth of definitions available, and we need to be clear about what we are working towards.

As with all category strategy development, both quick wins and longer, more complex changes are bound to be identified. At this stage, it feels like making some progress is a good position, mainly as we are bound to run into issues where the complexities of change need considerably more change – such as changing the locations of whole crops.

Starting to work on this now seems to be the right approach. Ensuring that net-zero carbon is addressed appropriately will require all category teams to reach back into the toolkit and identify what they need to do with this critical objective.

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