By Lisa Manley (Vice President, Sustainability at Mars) and Chris Jochnick (President & CEO at Landesa)
Land is a source of power, wealth, and livelihood. Yet land rights remain a distant aspiration for so many. Around the world, nearly 1 in 5 adults feel insecure about their land or property rights. This represents nearly 1 billion people who consider it likely or very likely that they will lose rights to their home or land against their will in the next five years. That means that most people in the world’s poorest communities survive off of land that is either unregistered or insecure.
When people do not possess rights to land, they are less likely to take action to protect the land and the natural resources it helps to cultivate. They also lack a basic asset that can empower them with opportunities for a home, loans, savings, and investment in their future.
Those without secure land rights are frequently rural women and men and Indigenous People. This perpetuates a vicious cycle of inequity and poverty that has grown during the COVID-19 pandemic. Secure land rights have the ability to improve people’s economic well-being, political power, and upward mobility.
The role of companies
Companies and their suppliers working in countries with insecure tenure rights can exacerbate land challenges and drive conflicts through land acquisitions and land-related dealings. By the same token, companies have the opportunity to drive improvements for people and the planet through responsible investments in land and advocacy for land rights.
Mars is working with Landesa, a leading non-profit with the mission to secure land rights for millions of the world’s poorest, mostly rural women and men, to create guidance for Mars’ suppliers in their efforts to respect and strengthen land rights. This framework is designed to provide practical steps that suppliers can take to respect the land rights of individuals, families, and communities. We know that when these rights are respected, rights holders benefit from:
- Increased ability to invest in their land, leading to greater crop incomes and resilience to climate change;
- Improved nutrition, health, and education;
- Increased agency and empowerment of women and local communities; and
- Reduced conflict and instability.
And there are benefits to business as well. When businesses respect land rights, they can benefit from:
- Better relationships with communities around them;
- A more stable operating environment due to lower risks of conflict with or among communities;
- Avoidance of costly operating delays or security force intervention; and
- Lower risk of lawsuits or reputational damage relating to land conflicts.
Mars’ commitment to respect and strengthen land rights
This guidance is a critical step on our journey to improve respect for land rights in our operations and our supply chains. We recognize that advancing respect for land rights cannot be achieved in silos, which is why working with governments and partners like Landesa to advance our shared goals to expand access to, and respect of, secure land rights is also important.
“At Mars, we are deepening our efforts to advance respect for land rights. To be successful we are focused on supporting our suppliers as they take steps to develop policies and procedures that advance respect for land rights across their own operations and supply chains. That is why we partnered with Landesa to publish this practical guidance for incorporating land rights into management systems and good practice steps to employ when land is being purchased, leased, or subject to a land use change.”
– Alissa Marturano, Associate Director, Sustainable Sourcing, Mars Wrigley
We invite our suppliers and other companies involved in investing in land to use this guidance to advance practices that demonstrate respect for land rights in their operations and supply chains. We believe using this framework creates a win-win for agribusinesses and land rights holders alike. By using this guidance, our suppliers are better equipped to create management systems that help them invest in land responsibly so that people can thrive today and for generations to come.