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Eric Soubeiran: finding focus in the transition to net zero

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Authored by Eric Soubeiran

As Unilever works to reduce emissions across our value chain, Eric Soubeiran shares his views in Reuters Industry Insight on how businesses can unlock faster climate action.

A bird’s eye view of crops being harvested in a field

About the author

Eric Soubeiran, VP of Business Operations Sustainability and MD of Unilever’s Climate & Nature Fund.

Eric Soubeiran

Eric is VP of Business Operations Sustainability and Managing Director of Unilever’s Climate & Nature Fund. He is also a non-executive director of the Carbon Trust.

Originally published in Industry Insight from Ethical Corporation Magazine, a part of Thomson Reuters.

Working out how to get your company to its net-zero target isn’t easy, but it’s the most important thing you’ll do this decade. The truth is this: decarbonisation is not a hard science, and all of us are learning on the job. What’s clear is that we exist in a complicated web of interdependencies that requires careful navigation and collaboration with partners along the way. It makes sense to find the intersection of what’s material to your business and where you can have the most impact.

According to CDP, emissions in supply chains are on average 11.4 times greater than in company operations, and at Unilever it’s greater still, with just 2% of our estimated total footprint coming from our factories and workplaces. The rest is from how we source our materials and package our products through to their storage and disposal. These Scope 3 emissions are the hardest to address, because it’s where we don’t have direct control.

In my view, any strong sustainability strategy starts with a look at your business as it is, and not as you would like it to be. It’s worth seeking out what I call your ‘transparency shock’ sooner rather than later. By this I mean doing the necessary research to estimate and understand your Scope 3 footprint, how much resource will be needed to reduce it, and, crucially, which emissions reduction levers will unlock the most progress.

It’s the role of the sustainability team to explain this complexity to the board, and to do that the evidence really matters. At Unilever, data collection from our value chain partners is of paramount importance to understanding what it will take to deliver net zero by 2039. We’ve still got further to go, but it’s helping us work out what’s in our power to change – why, and how.

Read the rest of Eric’s comments here.

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