Case Study: Mars, Inc.’s Responsibility to Families
Corporate actual responsibility includes the obligation of employers to respect the balance of work and family commitments and to support employees’ aspirations for family formation.
Recent campaigns for gender parity have drawn public attention to the “family-friendly workplace.” But such initiatives typically provide additional benefits for white-collar professionals and focus on keeping women attached to the workforce and climbing the corporate ladder—to the point that some firms even offer to cover the cost of freezing eggs. The lists of the top family- and parent-supporting businesses are dominated by technology and professional services firms. Often overlooked are the needs of workers in service occupations, skilled trades, production jobs, and low-skill labor, and the desire that many have to focus more attention on family obligations.
Now in its one hundred and ninth year, the family-owned food and confectionery company, Mars, Incorporated, has consistently been recognized as one of the country’s best employers – and the only one in the food production industry. Based in McLean, Virginia, Mars has grown into a multi-national company with over 100,000 employees in over 80 countries and a multi-billion-dollar portfolio of some of the world’s most iconic brands. More than two-thirds of the company’s American workers are employed at its 13 U.S. factories, which makes its focus on supporting workers’ families all the more noteworthy.
The Mars philosophy of corporate responsibility dates back to 1947, when Forest E. Mars, Sr. penned a company-wide letter that outlined the principle of “mutuality of benefits for all stakeholders.” This mutuality principle has evolved through the years to encompass new stakeholders and inspire new initiatives, and it has also laid the groundwork for the benefits that the Mars family now offers to their workers’ families. Board member and former chairman Victoria Mars explains, “Working together with our Associates when they become parents or have family responsibilities that require focus is the right thing to do, and it is the smart thing to do for our business.” Such values have established loyalty with the Mars family’s employees. An estimated 12 percent of its U.S. workforce has been with the company for 20 or more years.
Mars provides generous benefits to its employees to support their aspirations for family formation. The company offers new parents 30 days of paid parental leave and provides 6 weeks of short-term-disability coverage for new mothers. Couples seeking to adopt children can receive a $5,000 benefit per child to cover adoption-related expenses and 30 days of paid parental leave. Employment policies at Mars also respect a balance of work and family obligations. The company guarantees flexibility so that employees can support loved ones and raise children. Half of all workers take advantage of flexible scheduling, while more than a third have a compressed workweek or opt to telecommute from home.
Policies like these meet workers where they are and provide the options they value—which, for many, means getting to spend more time with their families, not more time with the CEO. Mars shows that such benefits can extend to workers in any sector or occupation if employers make it a priority.