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Four ways that sustainability has made us a stronger business

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For more than a century, we’ve been a business driven by purpose. And ten years ago, with our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), we set out on a journey to become the world’s most sustainable business.

A young boy with his thumb up

The USLP aimed to make us better.

Better socially.

Better environmentally.

And at the same time, better performing as a business.

A powerful impact – on those around us, and on ourselves

As we look back over our ten-year journey so far, we have much to be proud of. We’ve had a positive impact on the lives of millions of people, and on the planet.

But has it made us a better business?

We can see the evidence everywhere we look.

So as we celebrate the USLP and embark on the next chapter of our vision to be the leader in sustainable business globally, here are four ways that our USLP has made us stronger.

1. By growing our brands and driving innovation

Across the business, we’ve seen how our brands have become stronger with purpose and innovation – and how that has driven growth.

In 2014 we started to define and measure what we call our ‘sustainable living brands’.

These were not niche brands – they included household names like Dove, Lipton, Hellmann’s and Omo – as well as brands that are certified B-Corp, like Seventh Generation and Pukka tea. What they have in common is a powerful sense of purpose that aligns with consumers and the USLP.

And the fact that they have continuously and consistently outperformed the average growth rate of Unilever.

Pukka teabags

2. By reducing our risks and costs

Adopting sustainable business practices helps us secure supply and support growth.

We’re working with smallholder farmers, for example, on sustainable farming methods that increase their yields and mitigate the effects of climate change. Our Unilever Sustainable Living Report describes the progress we’ve made in Sustainable sourcing and Enhancing livelihoods.

The USLP has also helped us avoid costs. Through our eco-efficiency programme, for example, we have avoided over €1 billion in costs since 2008, by improving water and energy efficiency in our factories, and by using less material and producing less waste.

Farmers out in the field picking crops

Photo by Unilever employee Guido Ast, Argentina

3. By attracting the best talent

People are undoubtedly our greatest asset. And the USLP has helped us attract, and retain, the best people, while contributing to greater trust in our business.

We are the No.1 consumer goods employer of choice for graduate students in over 50 countries. And when we ask our employees what they think, almost 90% say they feel proud to work for Unilever, while 79% feel their job contributes to the USLP.

A lady standing next to a plastics recycling container

4. By helping us cultivate partnerships and promote transformational change

We would never have been able to deliver the ambitious goals of the USLP alone. Working with others has hugely increased our reach – and our impact.

We’ve grown stronger through our work with suppliers, NGOs, social enterprises and government organisations. They’ve helped us enhance livelihoods, create opportunities for women and drive fairness in the workplace. At the same time, they’ve helped us build trust in our business and our brands.

People sitting in a room

Photo by Unilever employee Ayush Kapoor, India

Sustainable success, and a foundation for the future

Our commitment to making sustainable living commonplace doesn’t end with the USLP.

Our long history of doing business with purpose and our ten-year USLP journey have shown us what a sustainable business can and should look like.

We’ve proved that brands with purpose grow. We’ve shown that companies with purpose last. And we’re convinced that people with purpose thrive.

With these three beliefs as our foundation, we’ll keep building a business that makes sustainable living commonplace for the 8 billion people that call this planet home.

Main photo by Unilever employee Haidee Booth, UK


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