Unilever Unveils Broad New Sustainability Commitments
Global consumer brands company Unilever today announced a wide range of sustainability commitments and targets that the company will pursue over the next several years, in an effort to fight climate change, protect and regenerate nature, and preserve resources for future generations. The new measures cover a broad range of environmental and sustainability practices, including GHG emissions, water preservation, deforestation, and biodiversity, as well as social goals relating to farmers, smallholders and other supply chain partners, among others.
In today’s announcement, Unilever made several significant commitments, including:
- Achieving Net Zero emissions from all products by 2039. The company will work jointly with partners across the value chain, to collectively drive lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions, prioritizing partnerships with suppliers who have set and committed to their own science-based targets. To enhance transparency, Unilever intends to communicate the carbon footprint of every product sold. The company also issued a call on governments to set ambitious net-zero targets, as well as short term emissions reduction targets, supported with enabling policy frameworks such as carbon pricing.
- Achieving a deforestation-free supply chain by 2023. The company intends to increase traceability and transparency by using emerging digital technologies, such as satellite monitoring, geolocation tracking and blockchain, to accelerate smallholder inclusion and change its approach to derivates sourcing. As part of its broader goal to help regenerate nature, Unilever will empower a new generation of farmers and smallholders committed to protecting and regenerating their farm environment, with initiatives including securing legal land rights, access to finance and financial inclusion, and development of restorative practices.
- Introducing a Regenerative Agriculture Code for all suppliers. Building on the company’s Sustainable Agriculture Code, it will include details on farming practices that help rebuild critical resources.
- Enhancing water preservation practices. Unilever will implement water stewardship programmes for local communities in 100 locations by 2030, and will also join the 2030 Water Resources Group.
- Aiming to make product formulations biodegradable by 2030. While the company notes that some ingredients currently in use have no biodegradable alternatives, it has pledged to work with partners to find solutions to reach this new goal.
Additionally, Unilever announced that its brands will collectively invest €1 billion in a new dedicated Climate & Nature Fund. The funds will be used over then next ten years for projects likely to include landscape restoration, reforestation, carbon sequestration, wildlife protection and water preservation.
Commenting on today’s announcements, and the new wide-ranging commitments made by the company, Alan Jope, Unilever CEO, said:
“While the world is dealing with the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and grappling with serious issues of inequality, we can’t let ourselves forget that the climate crisis is still a threat to all of us. Climate change, nature degradation, biodiversity decline, water scarcity – all these issues are interconnected, and we must address them all simultaneously. In doing so, we must also recognise that the climate crisis is not only an environmental emergency; it also has a terrible impact on lives and livelihoods. We, therefore, have a responsibility to help tackle the crisis: as a business, and through direct action by our brands.”
Marc Engel, Unilever Chief Supply Chain Officer, expanded further on the company’s sustainability efforts:
“Our collective responsibility in tackling the climate crisis is to drive an absolute reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, not simply focus on offsetting – and we have the scale and determination to make it happen. But this is not enough. If we want to have a healthy planet long into the future, we must also look after nature: forests, soil biodiversity and water ecosystems. In most parts of the world, the economic and social inclusion of farmers and smallholders in sustainable agricultural production is the single most important driver of change for halting deforestation, restoring forests and helping regenerate nature. In the end, they are the stewards of the land. We must, therefore, empower and work with a new generation of farmers and smallholders in order to make a step change in regenerating nature.”
Alan Jope added:
“The planet is in crisis, and we must take decisive action to stop the damage, and to restore its health. Last year, we set out a plan to tackle perhaps the most visible environmental issue we have in the consumer goods industry: plastic packaging. We set ourselves new and stretching targets that include halving our use of virgin plastic, and helping collect and process more plastic packaging than we sell. While it’s critical to address the impact that our products have at the end of their life, it’s just as important to continue to look at the impact they have on the planet at the start of their life – in the sourcing of materials – as well as in their manufacture and transport. We will reduce the impact that our products and our operations have on the environment, and we will do our part to bring the planet back to health.”