Sustainability initiatives: we must act now

In a discussion with Kim Smet, interim general manager at Mars Petcare UK, he explains why it is paramount to provide initiatives that protect the endangered habitats of today. Smet alludes to the brand’s latest project, the ‘Hope Reef’ programme, aiming to educate people on the importance of rebuilding the reefs and making more sustainable choices

Why is it important to support global sustainability projects?

Supporting sustainability projects has always been important to us at Mars Petcare, we have worked on coral reef restoration for the past 18 years and more recently set up our Sustainable in a Generation Plan in 2017 to ensure that Mars is a positive force in the world for years to come. We are all becoming more conscious buyers and trying to make decisions that have a positive impact on the planet, and with many shoppers also looking to play an active part in protecting the planet and pets, it’s critical for brands to lead the way.

With the increasing impacts of climate change, we are committed to tackle the environmental and societal threats we face. We recognise the importance of fixing these issues, which is why supporting global sustainability projects and acting now is vital in order to help raise awareness, drive change and educate future generations. As a global business, we have a responsibility to make our planet a better place. We believe it’s our duty to limit our environmental footprint, protect the world’s ecosystems, and improve the lives of people (and their cats).

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Why specifically the ‘Hope Reef’ programme?

Fish is an important ingredient that allows us to provide pet owners with healthy, nutritious and high-quality pet food. Sustainable fishing depends on the seas’ resources and this can only be achieved by supporting these incredible natural assets. As the oceans’ most diverse ecosystem, coral reefs are at the heart of our efforts and why Hope Reef and our commitment to coral restoration is so important. Of course, it’ll keep cats happy, but it’s also vital for the nearly 500 million people globally who rely on reefs for food, income, and coastal protection.

This is critical work. The world’s coral reefs are at breaking point. If we do nothing, we could lose this vital ecosystem forever. The rapid rate of the decline of coral reefs has long been a concern for us at Mars, and restoring the coral reef ecosystem is a key part of our aim to be sustainable. Over the past 13 years, Mars Petcare has worked with community ambassadors on coral reef restoration and as a result, more than 285,000 coral fragments have been planted and 19,000 reef stars have been installed to date, all using locally sourced materials. Sheba built the reef to visibly spell out the word HOPE from the seabed, using restored coral as a symbol to show the world how positive change can happen within our lifetime.

What can be expected from the £1.25m investment?

We are marking the launch of our campaign with a £1.25m investment, driving engagement to the YouTube video, The Film That Grows Coral, and investing in in-store activation to help retailers across all channels spread the word on Sheba Hope Reef.

Do you plan on developing the project each year to gain new support?

The Hope Reef build itself began in 2019 but we have been working on coral restoration at Mars since 2004, although this is the next chapter in one of the world’s largest coral reef restoration programmes, it definitely won’t be the last.

Have you noticed other pet retailers following suit?

We hope our work sparks a movement. By making sure as many people as possible are aware of the issue, we hope others will also take action so we can work together to restore our coral reefs to their former glory.

How have customers responded to the campaign so far?

Since customers have been invited to play a part in restoring coral reefs by watching the YouTube video, The Film That Grows Coral, we have racked up an impressive eight million views. With 100% of the advertising money generated from the video being invested into coral reef restoration, it’s great to see customers getting involved and hopefully spreading the word. We have also had support from retailers through the shopper marketing activity.

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