How Mars’ Digital Transformation Is Accelerating Its Sustainability Commitments
Digitization and sustainability: two sides of the same coin. But how can brands balance the two? Petcare, food, and snack company Mars, Inc., has seemingly figured out how to meld the two together as part of its change management journey.
At a CGT League of Leaders meeting in September, Carol Van Den Hende, Mars' senior director digital transformation and award-winning author of the "Goodbye, Orchid" trilogy, spoke about how digitization and sustainability efforts can be — and maybe should be — entwined through change management.
"Some of the pieces we've built, maybe they weren't explicitly with sustainability in mind, but they do benefit sustainability," Van Den Hende emphasized. "Digital can accelerate our path to our net zero commitments. Digital can accelerate our path to our sustainability commitments.
There is a lot of synergy and opportunity to be able to measure and therefore govern the things that all of us are striving towards when it comes to our sustainability commitments."
Van Den Hende cited two dual digitization/sustainability examples within Mars. As part of digitizing its supply chain, the company created factory digital twins to replicate performance, attributes, and parameters of different lines within the company's plants.
Not only did the digital twins yield efficiency improvements, but "we identified ways to reduce energy use, reduce water use, consistent with the goals that we've set," she said. "That's measurable, significant, meaningful impact."
Mars also created logistics control towers to provide data on its varying logistics and transportation lines. In addition to analyzing routes taken, the type of fuel used, and energy use, it gleaned the "greenhouse gas impact from these different logistics lines, and that can become part of the decision making to make more sustainable decisions," Van Den Hende said.
As part of its sustainability and digitization change management journey, Mars speaks to consumers on their own sustainability change journey. "Consumers want to do the right thing," Van Den Hende asserted. "We also hear things like consumers are quite confused. They might be confused by the messaging, they might be confused by what they should be doing even if their intention is good.
Greenwashing, she said, is causing confusion and skepticism — consumers are wondering what information they can trust.
This is why transparency and communication are key. “To have a top-down type of message is helpful,” Van Den Hende stated. “But then, on the other hand, I think change management is really important from the bottom up; the grassroots, the leaders on the ground who see the importance and are driving change and inspiring others to that change. And this is true both for sustainability as well as the digital transformation journey that I’ve been on.”
Walmart is in the midst of a major overhaul, looking to transform its business from top to bottom. While many recent improvements have targeted the digital shopping space, the company has also been heavily investing in its infrastructure, logistics, and supply chain.