Creating Impact

Being a Sustainable consumer – Halloween edition

Halloween is upon us, and with that the rush to get candy to hand out to eager little hands. So how do you find the right candy to hand out?

You can incorporate your personal values in your consumption decisions - including for Halloween.

Personally, I would love to give out apples, but I don’t think I would score a lot of points in my neighborhood. So the primary consideration is then to buy candy you like yourself – just in case there are leftovers that “have to be dealt with” afterwards.

Our go-to’s are m&m’s and Mounds (although the m&m’s make you question the FDA after seeing the European version of much more muted colors). For fun, I took a deeper dive into looking at the companies that make those delicious treats, Mars Inc. and Hershey’s, respectively, to see if I can use my impact screening methodology to find a preference.

There are many different ways to look at the relative attractiveness of two companies. This one gets a little more interesting, as Mars is privately owned, while Hershey’s is listed on the stock exchange. I use various tools in my assessment when looking at building portfolios with the right profiles, and for this exercise, is a good place to start. They offer a lot of insights and collects data from many different sources – and a lot of it is free to use.

The next step is to find the metrics that would be important to look at, and there are many to choose from. For this post, I chose to look at resource use and how they treat their work force. I chose the factors to look at before diving into it, to try to avoid being persuaded by the data.

First the big picture, the carbon footprint. To be able to make a reasonable comparison, carbon intensity (emissions per $1M revenue) is a good indicator. The companies are vastly different sizes, so the total emissions could skew the results. Here, we find that Hershey emits only 27% of that of Mars – quite a significant difference. Winner, Hershey.

Next, sustainable use of water. Many consumption based industrials use significantly more water than you would expect, and clean water is a resource that is scarce in many regions, both domestically and globally – so it should be used sustainably. This one is directly related to UN Sustainable Development Goal #6 – Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all – and involves several different data points (27 at last count, both company provided and from third party watch dogs and governmental sources), so we will be looking at the high level score. Here, Hershey scores 97 vs Mars at 32. This score could be impacted by the lack of data from Mars (as they are privately held), but I don’t think enough to explain the difference. Winner, Hershey.

Onto their labor practices. A good place to start is equal pay, which goes a lot further than purely looking at same pay for same work. It also involves looking at the ability for women and minorities to receive promotions, giving them access to higher paying positions at a similar rate as that of men (white men in particular). On that parameter, both companies score above average, although with Hershey ahead 96 to Mars’ 78. Winner, Hershey.

Overall, based on my limited criteria, Hershey would be a company whose products I feel better about buying. Does that mean Mars is a terrible company? No, it doesn’t, but it does show a room for improvement. There is no such thing as a perfect company – but as consumers, and sometimes shareholders, we can nudge or push them towards being more of a positive contributor to our shared world.

Honestly, I was a little surprised by some of the findings, at least the magnitude of difference between these two companies. As a result, I will push more of my purchases towards Mounds (and Reese’s Pieces) to support a company that better reflect my values.

If I had looked at different data points, the needle could have pointed another direction (although Hershey does look like a pretty good performer in most categories). The value in a comparison like this, is that by taking a look through the lens reflecting your personal values, you can look for the best fit for you.

Want to learn more about your values, and how they could affect your buying and investing decisions? Take a short assessment here, and get your Impact Persona.

This post is intended for educational purposes only, and should not be construed as personalized tax, investment, legal or other professional advice. Before taking any actions, you should always seek the assistance of a qualified professional. The information contained in this post is derived from sources deemed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed. Past performance is not indicative of future results.  All views/opinions expressed are solely those of the presenter and do not reflect the views/opinions held by Advisory Services Network, LLC.