This Company Wants People Around the World To Chase Their Dreams

By Ellen R. Delisio
May 30, 2024 9:45 AM ET

Originally published by TriplePundit

Did you know that every handful of M&M’s or package of Ben’s Original you eat not only tastes good, but does good too? Social responsibility is not only good for business, but it’s increasingly expected by the American public. More than half (55 percent) of U.S. consumers say companies should be involved with social, environmental and political issues, according to a recent study from Harvard Business School. Additionally, 75 percent of respondents consider it somewhat or very important for companies to improve the world. When it comes to bottom lines, reputation with external and community stakeholders has a significant influence on corporate earnings.

With this commitment in mind, leadership across Mars and its family of brands are working to identify opportunities to leverage their influence in support of underserved communities. Through several initiatives across its portfolio, Mars is focusing its resources to bolster diversity, equity and inclusion for both employees and consumers.

In doing so, the company launched programming to support women entrepreneurs, artists, and Black college students among others, to help lift them toward their goals.

“This is all happening across Mars, driving a societal positive impact,” said Marissa Viola, senior director of brand and content at Mars Wrigley.

For example, the iconic Mars brand M&M'S launched the M&M’S FUNDd last year in an effort to help increase the sense of belonging for 10 million people internationally by 2025. “We’re showing up to support fans across the world,” Viola said. That support includes resources, mentorship, opportunities and financial support in the arts and entertainment spaceBut that’s not all.

To celebrate and uplift women globally, this year M&M’S launched Flipping the Status Quo, honoring women who are positively impacting their communities. In March, 20 women were selected, and each was awarded $10,000 to support their work. Mars and M&M’S later offered a similar program to its vast network of more than 140,000 associates from around the world, and invited them to nominate co-workers who are flipping the status quo by building a more inclusive world and helping women reach their full potential.

“We’re looking for women who are doing something new in their industries — whether it’s STEM or fashion,” the company wrote in its call for external applicants. “We want to help them further uplift their missions to help everyone feel like they belong.”

The Dove brand also celebrates women entrepreneurs with the two-year-old Dove InstaGrants program, awarding three female entrepreneurs each year with a $10,000 grant to help support their business ventures. 

“Ultimately, we feel that fostering an inclusive brand can help shine a light on women and the issues they stand for,” Viola said. “We’re not just using ads, but actually acting to lift women to the next level.”

Mars is also working to create opportunities for underserved groups across its portfolio — from snacks and food, to pet nutrition and veterinary health.

The Ben’s Original brand, for example, runs its Seat at the Table Fund, a $2 million scholarship program to help African American college students eager to work in the food industry. Co-sponsored by UNCF (the United Negro College Fund) and National Urban League, successful candidates receive funding for educational expenses for associate, bachelor’s or certificate programs in culinary arts or food science.

“African American students often face more financial obstacles and lack access to networking opportunities and mentorships that are critical to career success,” said Kristen Campos, vice president of corporate affairs for Mars Food and Nutrition in North America. “It’s inspiring that Mars recognizes the need for change and is taking action toward it.”

Investing in young people with aspirations in the food space also helps to bolster the future of businesses like Mars. “Supporting and empowering young professionals from a diverse range of disciplines and backgrounds will help bring the brightest minds to our business and set us up for continued growth and future success,” Campos said. “The Seat at the Table Scholarship Fund will have a lasting impact on scholarship recipients by helping to provide them with support for higher education and opportunities they deserve.” 

In March 2021, eight U.S. students were each awarded the first $25,000 annual grants. Since then, the program has been expanded to include students in the United Kingdom and Canada. The grants can be renewed each year.

“Mars and Ben’s Original Seat at the Table Scholarship provided me with the financial support and community I need to fully engage in my academics and push myself further in my studies,” said Chai Comrie, a student in Florida A&M University’s College of Agriculture and Food Sciences and a Seat at the Table scholarship recipient. “I am grateful to be able to solely focus on my education as a result of this scholarship.”

Every year, Mars strives to introduce resources to consumers and employees that help them achieve their personal ambitions and make their mark on greater society, Campos said. “I’m proud to work for a company like Mars that invests in underrepresented individuals and communities by providing access to — and creating opportunities for —new and diverse talent and empowering them to pursue their dreams.”

This article series is sponsored by Mars and produced by the TriplePundit editorial team.

(Image credit: New Africa/Adobe Stock and Mars)