Working with our suppliers to support biodiversity
Within the last decade, we have seen a massive decline in the number of bee colonies and wild bee populations in Europe, the US, China and Japan, and the crisis appears to have reached Africa, with the first signs of colony collapse reported in Egypt. That is why at Unilever we have been working with our suppliers and their farmers to ensure we are conserving biodiversity to help bees thrive, as without them we would not have some of our most loved brands, including Knorr and Colman’s.
A must-have for mustard
For Colman’s, pollinators are particularly important to help protect crop yields as white mustard varieties depend on pollinators during flowering time. We have been working with the English Mustard Growers (EMG), a farm collective based in Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk, that grows mustard seeds for the brand. The programme – which will continue until 2025 – aims to boost local bee and pollinator populations.
Following a survey of EMG farms that highlighted gaps in the availability of pollen and nectar in crops, woodland and field margins – usually early spring and late autumn – several farms have begun planting spring flowering bulbs. With the survey also showing that hedges and shrubs are important for supply, one farm has planted around 500 native hedge species and has plans for over 200 shrubs a year to re-generate surrounding woodland.
Giulia Stellari, Unilever’s Director of Sustainable Agriculture, says: “Having the farmers collaborate on this project means they are able to analyse their land holistically, benefiting pollinators on a much larger scale. This will also help secure the supply of crops used in our Colman’s English Mustard and therefore its provenance, as well as support our wider ecosystem and biodiversity.”
The project, which is the biggest of its kind in the UK, was a co-investment between the English Mustard Growers and Unilever.
Sustainably grown for Knorr
As Unilever’s largest food brand, Knorr is also supporting farmers to conserve biodiversity and protect bees in Europe and beyond. The Knorr Sustainability Partnership Fund makes up to €1 million a year available to support farmers investing in sustainable agricultural practices.
The fund has supported projects around the world to help protect pollinators. For example, at a vegetable supplier located in France, around 10% of its grower base have planted the perimeter of fields with a specific variety of flowers to attract bees. A supplier of frozen herbs and vegetables is creating flower fields on undeveloped areas of land in 20 sites across Europe. And a Spanish tomato paste and powder producer has created wild bee shelters.
Protecting biodiversity and helping bees thrive improves the quality of crops and ultimately contributes to the high quality taste of our products.