GLOBAL: Mars, the multinational food group and one of the biggest advertisers in the world, is calling on other brands to join it in a global initiative aimed at funding animal welfare and conservation projects.

The scheme, known as The Lion’s Share, was launched last week at the Cannes Lions Festival and encourages partners to contribute 0.5% of their media spend to a joint fund for each ad they use that features an animal.

Mars is a founding partner of the initiative, alongside the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Finch, the film production company. Other partners include advertising network BBDO and Nielsen, the measurement company.

The fund will be run by UNDP, which aims to raise $100m a year within three years, with the money allocated to a range of wildlife conservation and animal welfare programmes that will be supervised by the United Nations and civil organisations.

Andrew Clarke, chief marketing and customer officer at Mars, urged other brands to get involved, arguing that the fund would be a powerful way for businesses to leave a lasting legacy.

“The Lion’s Share is exactly the sort of ambitious initiative we need to take in order to ensure we foster a healthy planet on which everyone – including animals – can thrive. For Mars, it’s another step in living the commitments of our Sustainable in a Generation plan,” he said.

“We urge other companies and brands to join us in The Lion’s Share to help build a movement to tackle these critical issues,” he added.

Sir David Attenborough, the renowned BBC wildlife presenter, also endorsed the worldwide plan. “Animals are in 20% of all advertisements we see. Yet, they do not always receive the support they deserve. Until now,” he said.

“The Lion’s Share shows that by making a small difference today, we have an opportunity to make an unprecedented difference tomorrow.”

Speaking later to the Guardian, Andrew Clarke confirmed that he expected Mars would contribute “several million dollars” to the fund in its first year of operation.

That’s because, on top of its confectionary interests, Mars is also a major manufacturer of pet food and pet care products, which means animals feature prominently in its advertising. “We’re not going to be limiting our number of animals, we’re actually going to be increasing,” Clarke said.

Sourced from UNDP, Guardian; additional content by WARC staff