Unilever commits €1 billion to fight climate change, protect environment
Global consumer goods company Unilever has announced that it is set to achieve Net Zero emissions from all its products by 2039 as a raft of commitments it says are geared towards fighting climate change and protecting the environment.
The multinational has also said it will work with a new generation of farmers and smallholders, driving programmes to protect and restore forests, soil and biodiversity; and with governments and other organizations to improve access to water for communities in water-stressed areas.
To accelerate action, Unilever’s brands will collectively invest €1 billion in a new dedicated Climate & Nature Fund. This will be used over the next ten years to take meaningful and decisive action, with projects likely to include landscape restoration, reforestation, carbon sequestration, wildlife protection and water preservation. The new initiatives will build on other initiatives already underway, such as Ben & Jerry’s initiative to reduce GHG emissions from dairy farms; Seventh Generation advocating for clean energy for all; and Knorr supporting farmers to grow food more sustainably.
Alan Jope, CEO, Unilever: “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.”
To fight climate crisis, Unilever has committed to have no carbon emissions from its operations, and to halve the GHG footprint of its products across the value chain, by 2030. In response to the scale and urgency of the climate crisis, it has additionally committed to net zero emissions from all its products by 2039 – from the sourcing of the materials it uses, up to the point of sale of the products in the store.
The company also says it will prioritize building partnerships with suppliers who have set and committed to their own science-based targets. The company has further announced that it will set up a system for suppliers to declare, on each invoice, the carbon footprint of the goods and services provided; and create partnerships with other businesses and organisations to standardise data collection, sharing and communication.
Unilever has been among the companies keen on sustainable sourcing practices for over a decade with 89 per cent of its forest-related commodities being certified as sustainably sourced to globally recognized standards.
Unilever says it will achieve a deforestation-free supply chain by 2023 by increasing traceability and transparency by using emerging digital technologies – such as satellite monitoring, geolocation tracking and blockchain – accelerating smallholder inclusion and changing our approach to derivates sourcing.
Unilever statement: “We are also committed to working with the industry, NGOs and governments, to look beyond forests, peatlands and tropical rainforests, and to protect other important areas of high conservation value and high carbon stock which are under threat of conversion to arable land, with potentially devastating impact on the natural habitats.”
In addition to continuing to drive sustainable sourcing and an end to deforestation, Unilever is setting out to help regenerate nature: increasing local biodiversity, restoring soil health, and preserving water conservation and access. To do this, it says it will empower a new generation of farmers and smallholders who are committed to protecting and regenerating their farm environment. Initiatives that we will drive include securing legal land rights, access to finance and financial inclusion, and development of restorative practices. This integrated approach will improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and give them leverage to drive the regeneration of nature.
Unilever is also introducing a pioneering Regenerative Agriculture Code for all our suppliers. The new code will build on its existing Sustainable Agriculture Code, which is widely recognised as being best-in-class in the industry, and it will include details on farming practices that help rebuild critical resources.
Unilever has also announced plans to step up direct efforts to preserve water. Already, 40 per cent of the world's population is affected by water scarcity, and more than 2.1 billion people consume unsafe drinking water. Unilever has announced water stewardship programmes for local communities in 100 locations by 2030. To do this, it is relying on learnings from our Prabhat programme in India, which tackles water quality and supply risks around its factories. This programme takes a community approach to water management, and not only helps farmers across cropping seasons, but also addresses the basic human need for adequate and easy access to water.
Unilever will also join the 2030 Water Resources Group, a multi-stakeholder platform hosted by the World Bank, to contribute to transformative change and building resilience in water management in key water-stressed markets, such as India, Brazil, South Africa, Vietnam and Indonesia.
To further protect water resources, will make its product formulations biodegradable by 2030, to minimise their impact on water and the aquatic ecosystems. Although some of the ingredients that the company currently use have no viable biodegradable alternatives, it hopes to work with partners to drive innovation and find solutions to help us reach our ambition.
Marc Engel, Chief Supply Chain Officer, Unilever: “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: “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.”