Limiting the average global temperature rise to 1.5°C in line with the Paris Agreement will be impossible without nature-based solutions. And the ‘natural technology’ of forests is one of the most efficient ways of removing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide at a meaningful scale.
While Unilever has been at the forefront of efforts to tackle commodity-driven deforestation over the last decade, we recognise that industry progress has been too slow.
As forests support the livelihoods of more than 1 billion people and are home to up to 80% of the planet’s terrestrial biodiversity, we’re committed to achieving a deforestation-free supply chain by 2023. And we continue to ramp up our efforts to reach that goal.
We're focusing on palm oil, paper and board, cocoa, tea and soy. This is because they make up more than 65% of our impact on land.
“When people pick up a Unilever product, we want them to be certain that it didn’t come at the expense of people or planet,” says Dave Ingram, Chief Procurement Officer. “Part of that experience is knowing that the ingredients used are grown in natural ecosystems free from deforestation and by people whose rights are respected and promoted.”
Our plan of action to protect and regenerate nature
We’ve learnt in the past ten years that certification – where we still don’t have full traceability – won’t guarantee a deforestation-free supply chain.
We need to change the way supply chains operate, and that means going back to the field where our ingredients are grown and get visibility of what happens on the ground. This is particularly true of the ‘first mile’ from where the materials are sourced to where they are initially processed.
To achieve this, we’re using advanced technology, strengthening what we require of suppliers, and empowering farmers and smallholders to protect and regenerate the land. In parallel, we will continue to work with governments, NGOs and other partners to advocate for industry change.
Increasing transparency and traceability
To improve the transparency and traceability of our supply chains, we’re investing in satellite data, geolocation, and analytics, working with technology firms and innovative start-ups so that we understand the impact of our sourcing on land use, people and carbon emissions.
The latest digital capabilities will improve the way we monitor, predict and respond to situations, allowing us to act when it happens and anticipate where deforestation is likely to occur next. This knowledge will help us identify high-risk areas and target interventions where they’re most needed.
Technology will also be a force for good as we leverage these capabilities to help better understand areas that need protection and those that have high potential for regeneration.
Improving how we source our materials
Key to this is partnering with our suppliers. We are committed to developing deeper relationships with our partners that share the same ambition to protect and regenerate the land and empower the farmers and smallholders who depend on it.
Our work on this is covered in our newly introduced cross-commodity People & Nature Policy (PDF 2.03MB), which is based on the principles of protecting natural ecosystems from deforestation and conversion, respecting and promoting human rights, creating transparent and traceable supply chains and being a force for good for people and nature. It’s an industry-first policy, covering both environmental and social objectives.
Along with our Responsible Sourcing Policy (PDF 8.25MB), this policy lays out clear requirements for our own business, suppliers and partners, including protecting natural ecosystems from deforestation and conversion, respecting and promoting human rights, and being a force for good for people and the planet.
Working with farmers and smallholders
Smallholders and indigenous communities are the most important stewards of the land and have an essential role to play in the fight to end deforestation and regenerate nature.
We are committed to empowering a new generation of farmers and smallholders by supporting livelihood programmes that improve farming operations, increase productivity, assist in diversifying income streams and enable farmers to earn a living income.
We believe this way we can generate a real positive impact, not only for these communities but also for the health of the planet.
Our industry-wide commitment
If we simply focus on achieving a deforestation-free supply chain for ourselves but fail to tackle the wider systemic issues driving forest loss and affecting the people that work in them, we will only leave a poorer world for future generations.
We will continue to advocate for and lead the transformation of global supply chains towards more sustainable and regenerative models. This requires businesses, governments and civil society to work together to invest in forests and economies to make sustainable living commonplace.
Magnum, cocoa and Côte d’Ivoire
Côte d’Ivoire is one of the world’s largest cocoa-producing nations and a key location from where we source the chocolate for our Magnum ice creams.
It’s also a country where forests are critically under threat.
As part of its sustainability strategy, Magnum has announced a forest restoration programme where it will replant around 465,000 native trees in the Cavally region, which is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world.
The initiative also includes a unique arts and radio programme collaboration aimed at engaging local communities to work to protect and restore biodiverse forest habitats.
This is part of a wider cocoa strategy that brings us closer to the people who grow our ingredients. By 2025, we aim to have reached at least a third of the cocoa farmers in our direct sourcing with tailored impact programmes that: lift cocoa farmers out of poverty, eliminate child labour, halt deforestation, and champion forest protection and conservation.
Magnum leads on this strategy and accounts for 90% of our total cocoa consumption.
Magnum’s Brand Director Benjamin Curtis says: “We are proud to announce our work to protect and preserve forests in Côte d’Ivoire, where the majority of Magnum’s cocoa is sourced. It helps us continue on the right path for a sustainable future for both Magnum and our local cocoa farming communities, and means consumers can enjoy their Magnum ice cream knowing they’ve made a good choice for people and the planet.”