Unilever marks 10 years of Sustainable Living Plan
Unilever has celebrated 10 years of a commitment it made to over eight billion people to address social inequality and climate crises with the initiatives under the plan being lauded as landmark in the company’s pursuit for sustainable living for humanity.
Alan Jope, CEO, Unilever: “The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, USLP, was a game-changer for our business. Some goals we have met, some we have missed, but we are a better business for trying. It has required immense ingenuity, dedication and collaboration to get to where we are now. We have made very good progress, but there is still more to do. “The pressures on the planet are getting worse, and social inequality has reached a critical point, being made even more severe by the devastating pandemic we’re living through. These issues are just as urgent as they were before Covid-19 struck, and - like Covid-19 - they will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable. More than 700 million people live in extreme poverty, on less than $1.90 a day, and The World Bank estimates that an extra 40 million to 60 million people will fall into extreme poverty in 2020, as a result of Covid-19. The climate crisis risks adding hundreds of millions more.”
Among the milestones in the sustainability journey include:
Implementing health and hyigiene initiatives which have so far reached 1.3 billion people.
Empowering up to 2.34 million women access initiatives aiming to promote their safety, develop their skills or expand their opportunities, and moving towards a gender balanced workplace in which 51 per cent of management roles are currently held by women.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its manufacturing by 50 per cent, and achieving 100 per cent renewable grid electricity across its sites.
Reducing the total waste footprint per consumer use of its products by 32 per cent, and achieving zero waste to landfill across all the company’s factories.
Reducing sugar across all sweetened tea-based beverages by 23 per cent, and 56 per cent of foods portfolio which now meets recognised High Nutrition Standards.
Alan Jope: “Businesses across sectors, governments across continents, NGOs, academics, researchers, scientists… we must all come together. We can’t put climate action on hold. We can’t tell the people who live in poverty to wait. 2020 is the year in which an unthinkable amount of public money is going to be spent in support of getting the economy back on track. But we should not be seeking to get the economy ‘back to normal’. Instead, we must emerge stronger and more resilient than we were before; ready to take decisive and definitive action to look after people and the planet. As the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan journey concludes, we will take everything we’ve learned and build on it. We will do more of what has worked well, we will correct what hasn’t, and we will set ourselves new challenges. And while we don’t really know what the world will look like post-Covid-19, I am convinced that there will be no future unless we double down on our commitments to look after people and the planet.”
He added, “Before the Covid-19 crisis, it was already clear that the current capitalist model is in need of repair. Globalisation and capitalism are good for a business like ours, but globalisation and capitalism at the expense of people and the planet are not. It’s therefore up to businesses like us, working with partners– NGOs, government organisations, academics, suppliers, customers – to drive a new model of capitalism, and build a better future.”
Rebecca Marmot, Chief Sustainability Officer: “There are many highlights from the last ten years. Unilever’s Sustainable Living Brands – which include brands like Dove, Hellmann’s and Domestos – have consistently outperformed the average growth rate of the rest of the portfolio since the metric was introduced in 2014. We have avoided over €1bn in costs, by improving water and energy efficiency in our factories, and using less material and producing less waste. The USLP has also become a decisive factor to attract the best talent; and has been instrumental to forging strong partnerships with NGOs, government organisations and other businesses. But the USLP journey has also presented hurdles along the way. Unilever has many programmes to improve livelihoods and to enhance opportunities for women; but measuring their actual impact has proved extremely difficult. Likewise, the complexity of many of the global supply chains that we source from has made our sustainable procurement targets extra challenging.”
To build up on the USLP, Unilever has expressed commitment to championing sustainability by developing another corporate strategy dubbed the Unilever Compass which is hinged on three core beliefs: that brands with purpose grow, companies with purpose last, and people with purpose thrive.
The Compass lays out 15 multi-year priorities that cover the full spectrum of Unilever’s business and wider ecosystem. Each priority will have ambitious targets, with corresponding programmes and projects. They will tackle key challenges such as packaging and waste, gender equality, human rights, and fair value – as well as climate change and social inclusion. The Compass is underpinned by the same rigour as the USLP, and will be more holistic, inclusive, and far-reaching than ever before. More details will be unveiled in due course.
Alan Jope: “The USLP is drawing to a close after 10 years but the journey towards achieving our purpose of making sustainable living commonplace certainly isn’t. In fact, as the world is changing increasingly quickly, our employees, our consumers, our customers, our suppliers, our partners expect more from us. We know that we can continue to lead the charge, but we need to be better, bolder, and faster."