Unilever voices support for climate change action

September 2014: We are at the point where the cost of inaction is greater than the cost of actively combating climate change, says Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman, following the publication of ‘The New Climate Economy Report’ on 16 September.

Making the most of opportunities

The report – ‘Better Growth, Better Climate: The New Climate Economy Report’ – was compiled by government and business leaders including Paul Polman, and aims to drive action by world leaders, business executives and investors ahead of the global UN Climate Summit in New York next week. The report shows that economic growth and action on climate change can be achieved together.

New agricultural techniques are enabling more food to be produced while cutting CO2 emissions. If just 12% of the world’s degraded land were restored to production, we would slow the pace of deforestation, feed another 200 million people and farmers’ incomes would be raised by US$40 billion a year.

The next 15 years are critical, according to the report. Around US$90 trillion will be invested in cities, land use and energy infrastructure globally between now and 2030. The scale of this investment means there is a huge opportunity to create better growth and tackle climate change. These investment choices will shape the future and will lock in either a low- or a high-carbon pathway.

Now is the time to make decisions

Paul is a commissioner at the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, which was established as an independent initiative to examine how countries can achieve economic growth while dealing with the risks posed by climate change.

As one of 24 leaders involved in producing ‘The New Climate Economy Report’, Paul says: “So now is the moment to make a decision. But the decision is made easier: we do not have to choose between climate action and economic growth. The report now shows that this is a false dilemma. They can be achieved simultaneously.”

The research finds that there are major opportunities in these three key sectors of the global economy: cities, land use and energy. By improving efficiency, investing in infrastructure and stimulating innovation across these sectors and the wider economy, governments and businesses can deliver strong growth with lower emissions.

Unilever’s sustainable response to the challenges

“At the heart of the report’s findings is further evidence of the opportunities that lie ahead from embracing sustainability – work that we have already started,” Paul continues. “The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan is our blueprint for sustainable growth. It is bold and ambitious and seeks to double the size of our business whilst reducing our environmental footprint and increasing our positive social impact. It is helping to drive profitable growth for our brands, save costs and fuel innovation.”

Unilever has a taken a total value chain approach, from supplier through to final consumption, and it works to time-bound targets, such as helping more than a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being by 2020.

“The Plan is our strategic response to the challenges we face in doing business in an uncertain and volatile world. By working collaboratively with our suppliers, governments, NGOs and others in our industry, it goes well beyond what we can achieve in our own operations,” Paul concludes.

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