MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Mars Food has partnered with the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to develop the first global standard for sustainable rice. The standard was unveiled at the 5th Annual Plenary Meeting and Assembly on Oct. 26 in Manila, Philippines.

Mars, whose products include the world’s largest rice brand, Uncle Ben’s, also committed to sustainably source 100% of its rice by 2020 using the SRP standard.

“Caring for our environment as well as our entire supply chain from end-to-end is more than usual corporate responsibility — it’s an imperative for Mars Food,” said Fiona Dawson, president of Mars Food. “Through the global standard, we hope to create benefits for all involved from the farmers to our consumers. The benefit for us is that we are ensuring premium quality rice, while also ensuring a higher income for farmers, and a better environment for current and future generations. It is a truly mutual solution.”

The SRP standard consists of a set of criteria for sustainable rice cultivation that may be used across the world to reduce the environmental footprint of rice production and improve the lives of rice farmers. Mars Food said the standard consists of 46 requirements organized under eight broad topics, including productivity, food safety, worker health, labor rights and biodiversity.

Mars Food said it will use the standard as a benchmark against which to assess its rice supply chains — identifying where there are gaps and developing strategies to improve sustainability. The company said it already has begun piloting implementation of the standard with rice farmers in Pakistan and India.

In Pakistan, Mars Food is part of a farming program partnership with Rice Partners, Ltd., IRRI and Bayer CropScience that has grown from 31 smallholder farmers in 2011 to 400 farmers in 2015 who produce basmati rice grown with the correct application of chemicals and harvested with practices to improve food safety and water quality. In India, Mars Food is embedding new learnings while also piloting the SRP standard.