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Panel: Equestrian Community’s Impact on Global, Environmental, and Social Issues presented by MARS EQUESTRIAN

by US Equestrian Communications Department | Jan 9, 2020, 11:11 PM

Notable panelists, led by host Jim Wolf and moderator Bridgett McIntosh, spoke with expertise on a range of global, environmental, and social issues facing the world today, while connecting their unique affiliation to the equestrian community and the larger impact those involved with the industry can have on societal change.


The fundamental challenges we face as a global society have continued to escalate with the ever-changing development of our planet, creating further need to educate and understand cost-effective and mitigating solutions that can benefit the greater good of our population. Through philanthropic work and a commitment to empowering others, change is possible with knowledge and participation.

An impressive and knowledgeable group of world-changers participated in a comprehensive panel discussion on issues facing our society today and ways we can join together to find and support creative solutions to offset the burden for future generations. Jim Wolf of Wolf Sports Group hosted the panel with moderation by Bridgett McIntosh, Director of MARS EQUESTRIAN. The panel included presentations from Joe Gerbino, Global Communications Director of Cocoa at MARS; Dr. David Jones DVM, Chair of Brooke USA; Dr. David Vos, Co-Founder of The Vos Foundation; Jessica Newman, Founder & President of JustWorld International; and Mollie Bogardus, Chief Executive Officer of Aveterra. The presentations were followed by an engaging Q&A session with attendees.

Equestrian Community's Impact on Global, Environmental, and Social Issues presented by MARS EQUESTRIAN at the 2020 US Equestrian Annual Meeting in West Palm Beach, Fla. 

Each of the panelists shared the purpose and inspiration of their work, while also outlining the many ways others can get involved with each of their respective organizations and businesses, which are committed to changing the world for the better.

Improving Lives of Working Donkeys and Equines Helps Lift People Out of Poverty
Dr. David Jones DVM discussed the foundational purpose of Brooke USA, a 501(c)(3) organization committed to improving the lives of working equines and donkeys in underdeveloped regions of the world, which in turn, enhances the lives of the world’s poorest populations. There are over 110 million working donkeys and equines worldwide and Brooke USA, and their sister organization The Brooke, serve more than two million of these working equines annually, benefitting the lives of more than 12 million people.

“It quickly became very clear that unless you could acknowledge the cycle of poverty and the reaction it has in terms of animal welfare, and therefore animal productivity, and the ability needed for the animals to be able to work; unless you actually have a grasp on that situation, you aren’t going to be able to solve the problem in the long term,” said Dr. Jones. “There’s a lot of effort that has been put into trying to make these communities that we work with, in a three-to-five-year period, make them sustainable and give them the empowerment in order to look after their own needs.”

The overarching mission of The Brooke and Brooke USA is to create an economically viable system where families, particularly women, can support their needs while increasing their daily earnings to create a more equitable standard of living. In particular, there are five sectors in which the organization continues to work towards: the strengthening of livelihood, building resilience, enabling progress, empowering women, and mitigating crisis in climate change.

“The number of working animals has increased. There are a billion people that are wholly dependent on working animals and 700 million people are dependent on working donkeys and horses. They are within the $1-3 a day income range and how do we move them out of that situation?” asked Dr. Jones. “Beyond today’s situation, we need to train members of these communities to look after their animals themselves and feel confident that they can do that themselves. It’s amazing the number of people that come forward for that type of training. They want to be self-sufficient. It’s educating the current generation, but also the next.”

Addressing Carbon Emissions
David Vos, Co-Founder of the Vos Foundation, started the foundation after analyzing the increase in carbon monoxide emissions world-wide and observing the detrimental effect it has on the developing world and our planet on an unimaginable scale. To combat the rising concentration of global carbon emission, which is currently at the highest levels ever recorded, the Vos Foundation has set a goal to plant more than one trillion trees before the year 2030.

“Every year there is roughly 20 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) that remains in the atmosphere and just accumulates year after year. This is a new phenomenon. This has really only happened this drastically in the last 50 years. This is new territory for humankind,” said Dr. Vos. “We have a significant responsibility to address what we’ve done to the atmosphere, but we also have a remarkable opportunity to do that now.”

Dr. Vos also discussed the initiative’s relatively incremental cost in comparison to the larger global economy when describing its potential impact. The investment and commitment to this project has the ability to change the trajectory of carbon emissions in the future, which would bring the planet back to a more manageable and safe level.

“For only $100 billion, which is less than one-tenth of the percentage of global GDP, we could plant one trillion trees that would love to be eating up the CO2. That would make all of the difference for where we could go in the future and for the safety of life on planet Earth. What that translates into is basically one more tree for every three trees that are currently on the planet today have to be planted and we have to do this by 2030 because we’re running out of time, or alternatively, planting 13 trees a year for every person alive on the planet each year.” 

Supporting Farmers with Land Management Best Practices
MARS EQUESTRIAN, sponsor of the panel, is an arm of the larger global corporation, MARS, the largest distributor of cocoa and chocolate products in the world. Joe Gerbino, Global Communications Director of Cocoa, at MARS, spoke on the sustainability efforts they are enacting to help improve their global footprint and ensure their business processes and products continue to trend towards an environmentally sustainable model. Addressing three key areas of sustainability: climate action, water stewardship, and land use, MARS is working towards ensuring that the cocoa used in the development of their products is 100 percent traceable and to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 27% by 2025 and 67% by 2050.

“At MARS, our approach to business starts with our purpose and the world we want tomorrow starts with how we do our business today. This is our inspiration for pushing boundaries and challenging ourselves in the way we do business. We have over 125,000 employees in over 80 countries around the world living that purpose, united by five principles: quality, responsibility, mutuality, efficiency, and freedom,” said Gerbino. “We have to grow in ways that are good for people, good for the planet, and good for our business. We’ve built that into three pillars: healthy planet, thriving people, nourishing well-being.”

Amongst MARS’ many global initiatives, an emphasis has been placed on the need to educate and empower workers within the supply chain system on land management best practices. The launch of the “Cocoa for Generations” strategy plan puts farmers in the supply chain first to replenish and rebuild the fragmented cocoa farming industry through the protection of children and land, while simultaneously providing new pathways for farmers to support their families through their cocoa operations.

“Sustainable land management is the building block for sustainable agriculture, which is at the core of our business and the products we create. We believe that we have a role to stop, prevent, and reverse practices that degrade land use and ecosystems. We have ambitions to end deforestation in beef, cocoa, palm oil, pulp and paper, and soy supply chains. We’re also working with our supply chain partners to boost agricultural production without extending our own land footmark.”

Equestrian Community Unites to Support Families in Underdeveloped Nations
JustWorld International has been a staple of equestrian philanthropy for over a decade, supporting impoverished children around the world through the unification of dedicated equestrians. Jessica Newman, Founder & President of JustWorld International, discussed the organization’s growing mission to fund educational and nutritional programs, as well as provide medical resources for families in underdeveloped areas of the world.

“When I graduated, I felt an incredible need to unite the global equestrian community, which I had grown up in, in order to effect positive change in the world that could fracture the cycle of global poverty,” said Newman. “I’ve always thought the power and influence of the equestrian community is enormous and I wanted to create a platform for philanthropy within the equestrian sector.” 

Throughout Newman’s work, both internationally and domestically, she has found ways to utilize resources and support to best aid the needs of the children and families that JustWorld International is meant to serve and support.

“I’ve learned a valuable lesson about international development. Building partnerships with existing local and community-based organizations gives better insurance that you can reach people in need and provide them with success in making positive change in their lives,” elaborated Newman. “I combined this lesson with my desire to give young people in the equestrian world opportunities to take on practical means of social responsibility, both locally and globally.”

Manure Removal and Decomposition: Best Practices and New Technologies
A key issue that remains prevalent within the equestrian community is the disposal of equine waste and how to make the process of equine waste disposal more sustainable. Aveterra is a new company within the waste removal and composting space focusing on how to ensure best practices and new technologies are available when looking at the process of manure removal and decomposition.

“I like to ask people, ‘what is your idea of sustainability?’ and I’m always surprised at how few people can give me an answer. I think a very clear way of looking at it is by meeting the needs of our present generation and are we in any way putting in jeopardy the needs of our future generations?” asked Bogardus. “I’ve come to really understand the economics of manure and what happens when water hits our manure piles and our paddocks that aren’t cleaned. Nutrients in the manure leach out into the waterways and when there is access to these nutrients in the water, it feeds the algae that exists there and makes it go crazy, suffocating anything underneath of it.”

Sustainable manure removal and disposal has been a hot topic within the industry for years, and the development of new technologies and systems has been slow to catch up with demand. Bogardus noted that education and creating relationships is the key to implementing solutions that can work for the equestrian community.

“The education of what is right and wrong has to be out there and our industry needs to be aware of the threat that this brings to us,” commented Bogardus. “We have to write our own story. You have to write your own story. Understanding the liability is the first step, but also through creating partnerships with your local conservation districts and leveraging the economic impact of our industry. We will give you step by step ways that you can look at your own business and see how you can be more sustainable.”

Watch the archived stream of the panel Equestrian Community’s Impact on Global, Environmental, and Social Issues presented by MARS EQUESTRIAN now at USEF Network.