For the confectionery giant Mars, corporate responsibility comes with a motto: "Tomorrow starts today."
Except, it seems, when genocide is happening today. Then, Mars's tomorrow starts at the event horizon of a black hole. Time moves very slowly in such locales.
Still, the candy bar company isn't wasting any time pursuing the easy PR win of calling for climate change action. The company supports the "Glasgow is Our Business" movement, which wants bolder carbon reduction pledges at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in late October. That summit will bring together world leaders, including President Joe Biden. Notably, Chinese leader Xi Jinping is expected to stay home. This may be because Xi's coal pollution doesn't gel with his carbon pledges.
Mars doesn't mind. Writing for its Glasgow climate movement, Mars CEO Grant F. Reid calls on the world to act.
"The scale of global intervention must be bolder and faster," he said.
Reid adds that corporate and government carbon plans "need to have material, interim targets. We can't wait decades to see progress." The CEO points to Mars's own record as an example for others to follow.
Bold words. There are important debates on the means of action, but few would deny that climate change is a major global concern. One that demands coordinated action.
Just don't expect Mars to apply its same moral leadership to China. I reached out to Mars last week, referencing its CEO's statement on climate change as an apparent indication of Mars's corporate concern for human interests. In that context, I asked why "Mars also supports a no-comment policy in regards to Chinese government human rights abuses, including in Hong Kong and Xinjiang province."
The question is pertinent in that China has shredded its treaty- and human-rights commitments to democracy in Hong Kong. China is also engaged in a genocide against the Uyghur people of the Xinjiang province.
Unfortunately, the black hole appears to have affected Mars's email system. Six days later, I have yet to receive a response.
It's not surprising.
Back in May, I referenced Mars's "principles of responsibility" to include its "ethical responsibility to its communities and the environment." I asked whether Mars and other U.S. multinationals whether their silence on China's repression in Hong Kong contradicted their ethical commitments. Mars did not respond.
What motive for the sustained silence?
The American Chamber of Commerce-China lists Mars as a member of its exclusive "Chairman's Circle." Benefits of that membership, which is limited to 20 members, include "support from AmCham China in raising issues with Chinese and U.S. governments" and "highest priority for participation and seating in formal meetings with Chinese and U.S. government officials." AmCham China has previously hosted a Communist official under U.S. sanctions for China's repression in Hong Kong.
To be fair to Mars, "Glasgow is Our Business" includes the support of other U.S. companies on AmCham China's Chairman's Committee: Pepsi Cola, Hewlett Packard, and Walmart. When I asked in May about their silence on Hong Kong, these three companies either refused to comment or had no comment. But only the Mars CEO gave a bold comment on Glasgow.
Mars's moral black hole is thus the darkest.