Land Usage

Land Use

Working Towards More Sustainable Practices

Over the course of hundreds of years, farming and herding have transformed the Earth’s landscape. More efficient large-scale farming has helped drive yield improvements in commodity crops, helped feed a growing population with rising incomes and supported global trade.

At the same time, agriculture is faced with challenges, including degrading soil quality, fertilizer and pesticide run off and the effects of climate change. These challenges require action to protect land for future productive use and preserve biodiversity habitats and natural resources.

Science says no more than 15% of land globally should be cultivated for crops. Today, the planet is right on the cusp of this threshold with 13% of land being cultivated as of 2010. That’s why it’s now our goal as part of our Sustainable in a Generation Plan to hold flat the total land area associated with our value chain.

Our Land Usage Action Plan

Sustainable land management is the building block for sustainable agriculture, and we believe we have a role to play in helping to stop, prevent and reverse practices that degrade land and put pressure on natural ecosystems.

Taking Action in Our Value Chain

We’ve begun with efforts to end deforestation in our beef, cocoa, palm oil, pulp and paper, and soy value chains.

We’re working with our supply chain partners to boost agricultural production without extending our overall land footprint. This requires a focus on efficient and sustainable land use, as well as the rehabilitation of degraded land and soil health. We see significant opportunity, for example, to increase cocoa yields. Today, cocoa accounts for nearly one-third of our land footprint and has potential for triple yields, which would deliver roughly half the land use reduction needed to absorb our planned business growth.


Science and Partnership

In addition to land management, leveraging science to improve production processes and increase healthy yields on existing cultivated land can help transform cocoa farmers’ livelihoods. In 2010, with partners IBM and the US Department of Agriculture, we published the preliminary version of the cacao genome, the first step in advancing farmers’ ability to plant more robust, higher-yielding, and drought and disease-resistant trees.

Focus on Cocoa Sustainability

Since publishing the preliminary version of the cacao genome, we’ve taken a leading role in developing a common vision for cocoa sustainability, including the launch of the CocoaAction platform. CocoaAction interventions show that improved inputs and farming practices do significantly increase yields and, therefore, can reduce the amount of needed land. We’re taking what we’ve learned in mapping the cacao genome and applying it to genome mapping efforts across dozens of additional crops, and we’ve made these mappings publicly available.

We’re also partnering with suppliers and third-party organizations to utilize and strengthen certifications, verifications and other best-practice sustainability approaches.

As necessary, we’re prepared to replace the raw materials we source and/or change where we source to reduce deforestation risk.


At Mars, we are working to stop the cycle of environmental degradation and create a greener future for all.

Our Associates are currently figuring out exactly how farmers throughout our value chain use their land and how we can help. This is just the first step toward our ultimate aim of measuring and reducing the impact we have on land use. To begin, we’ve measured our land use in three areas:

  • Factories — Factories are hugely important to business, but their land use only accounts for around 0.05 percent of total use in our value chain.
  • Raw materials — It takes a lot of land for our partners to grow the raw materials we need for our business — 97.8 percent of our total use.
  • Packaging — Packaging our products takes up a bit more land than producing them — 2.2 percent of our total land use.

With this information in hand, we can go about making a difference. One approach is to use biodiversity hotspot maps to help us see where reducing land use needs to be a priority. Another approach would be to develop a land use impact “factor” that takes into account things like biodiversity impacts, soil fertility and soil erosion.

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