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Unilever delivers sustainable growth message at Rio


Unilever engaged with world leaders at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Unilever sign in Mexico

Leading the way in sustainable development

The UN Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20, saw heads of state and high-level representatives from 196 countries come together to promote sustainable development.

It represented an important opportunity for Unilever to influence policy that will help achieve the targets set out in its Sustainable Living Plan.

Paul Polman, CEO, took part in several high-profile discussions and spoke about the need for reduced import tariffs on sustainable commodities at a dinner with Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Organization.

Paul also spoke at the Green Growth Forum with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about the need to create policies that enable sustainable growth.

The Unilever delegation also included Gail Klintworth (Chief Sustainability Officer), Karen Hamilton (VP, Sustainability) and Fernando Fernandez (Brazil CEO).

Sustainable Development Goals

Unilever was also successful in encouraging the need for governments to commit to establishing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which could succeed the Millennium Development Goals set to expire in 2015.

In its pre-Rio manifesto, Unilever had urged collaboration with business to develop SDGs over issues such as deforestation and food security. There was widespread backing for the concept of SDGs and Unilever is now looking to support the new UN working group on the issue.

Global Advocacy Director Thomas Lingard said: “When it comes to understanding what needs to be done to promote sustainable growth, Unilever is now ahead of many governments.

“We have an unprecedented opportunity to galvanise the support of countries around the world in support of our plan to integrate economic growth and positive social impacts with a reduction in environmental impact.

“With the right support from policy-makers, we can go further and faster than we can alone.”


Another significant achievement was a pledge by United States government to support Unilever’s goal to eliminate deforestation in its supply chain by 2020.

Unilever is a leading advocate of the zero net deforestation policy, adopted by the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), a global alliance of 300 leading manufacturers and retailers, in 2010.

The US government announced that it would put additional resources into promoting sustainable agriculture that protects forests and would co-host, along with the CGF, high-level talks within 100 days.

“Individually, both governments and business have already mobilised significant resources to address the challenge of deforestation but we all recognise that much more can be achieved if we align our efforts and work in partnership,” said Paul.

About an acre of tropical rainforest is lost every second. The clearing and burning of these forests are responsible for around 15% of global carbon emissions.

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