Seven years ago, Mars, Incorporated launched the Mars Ambassador Program (MAP), as a way for us to make a difference to people and the planet through mutually beneficial, hands-on experiences that we call “MAP Assignments.”
Working with non-profit partner organisations in countries around the world, our Mars Ambassador Program connects our Associates directly with organisations around the world that support our business objectives, and leverage their professional or technical expertise to make a positive difference in major societal and environmental issues that are of critical importance to our business.
At Mars Drinks, each year a select group of Associates participate in the Mars Ambassador Program, travelling to tea and coffee origins to get a closer look at where our products come from, meet the people involved in growing them, and aim to have a positive impact on their communities as well.
For the past two years, we’ve worked with Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) to plan our program and ensure it is a worthwhile experience for everyone involved. We are grateful to ETP for helping us identify opportunities where we can make a difference and we know that working with ETP multiplies the impact we are able to have.
At the end of 2014, ETP hosted our group of nine Mars Drinks Associates as we explored the tea business in Kenya. We were able to experience a tea auction in Mombasa and tea processing in Nairobi. We met with farmers, tea pickers (pluckers), factory board members, production managers, and many other workers that in one way or another touch our supply chain.
Beyond watching and learning, we were able to get personally involved in two ways:
- Providing a library, books, computers, and funding for students at a local school.
- Analysing and offering a solution to the fuel shortage/deforestation challenges for the tea growing community in Kenya.
It was a proud moment for all of us to meet the boys and girls of Kanyenyaini Primary School. Our Associates back at home helped us to raise enough money to buy books, build a library, provide a new computer and printer, and sponsor 4 years of schooling for two children in-need. Meeting the children and knowing that our support for their schooling and for their community’s farms will make a difference in their lives gave our day-to-day work at Mars Drinks more meaning.
Working with non-profit, Living Earth, to consider a solution to the burning of virgin wood to fuel tea factory furnaces made us think in ways many of us never had to in the past. We worked to determine the viability of installing bio-mass, brick-making machines in KTDA tea factories. The bricks would be made from agricultural waste (like coffee or rice husks). Once compacted, the bricks would produce more power than virgin wood. We are hopeful that this solution will come to fruition and we can see the impact on a future Mars Ambassador visit.