CSIRO teams with Mars to develop sustainability strategies for the food industry

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 11th February 2009

A research partnership between the CSIRO and food manufacturer Mars has produced a database and information toolkit that will be available to a wide range of food businesses to help shape their future sustainability plans.

“CSIRO has worked with Mars to produce ‘life cycle analyses’ on a range of Mars’ food products that are relevant to almost every major food commodity produced in Australia,” explained CSIRO Deputy Chief Executive, Science, Dr Alastair Robertson. “The development of sustainability indicators for agrifood businesses will make environmental impacts transparent and create drivers for sustainable agriculture and food manufacturing.”

“These data provide a critical factual base for shaping environmentally sustainable policy and new business opportunities,” Dr Robertson added. “It also demonstrates the value of integrated multidisciplinary research in dealing with today’s sustainability challenges.”

CSIRO scientists and Mars sustainability experts are meeting this week with policy makers, suppliers and trade partners to discover how recent collaborative work in areas such as assessing and minimising the carbon and water footprint of Mars’ operations are increasing the scientific understanding of the environmental impacts of the food industry.

Dr Roger Bektash, Director of Scientific Affairs for Mars Australia, said the life cycle analyses for greenhouse gas emissions and water use impacts, conducted jointly by Mars and CSIRO, have provided important information on sustainability options. “We now have a number of key research findings showing where significant opportunities exist to reduce the impact of our operations,” Dr Bektash advised. “Our action now is to transform these into business strategies that will deliver meaningful, tangible benefits.”

Mars and CSIRO have been working on this project for more than a year, with this week’s conference the first step towards incorporating the results into the company’s business model.

Nick Hazell, Research & Development Director for Mars Australia, said that global concern for environmental sustainability needs to be translated into local actions. “We need to ensure we deliver benefits to the business, the community and the environment, and apply our Australian experiences and learning around the world,” Mr Hazell suggested.