Imagine a world without nature. Without the plants and wildlife that create our landscapes and ecosystems. It’s unthinkable.
Yet current levels of nature loss and climate change are already resulting in real and significant risks to communities, businesses and economies.
We believe protecting and regenerating nature is one of the biggest contributions Unilever can make to tackle climate change and make sustainable living commonplace.
Our partnership with WWF in Sabah, Malaysia is a good example of how protecting and restoring nature can benefit people, planet and our business.
Through our work landscape programme with WWF-Malaysia, we are helping fund work with our partners, including local non-profit organisations (BORA) and Forever Sabah, and the Sabah Forestry Department.
There are three key ways the programme is supporting nature.
Preserving key plant species
The Sungai Lipad restoration site we support is where BORA is experimenting to find the best methods of propagating and growing wild figs, native plants which are one of the key foods of animal species like orangutan.
The team are experimenting with new methods which not only mimic the way figs grow naturally but also help protect new plants growing along the banks from being washed away during seasonal floods.
Focusing on species that provide food for rare wildlife, rather than the wood species that are typically planted to revitalise degraded land, is a new approach to habitat restoration. So far, BORA have planted more than 6,300 fig plants on 130 hectares and have also set up the largest fig seed bank and plant centre to sustain living examples of every fig species for future generations .
Restoring riverside reserves
The project we’re supporting in Sungai Lipad has overseen the planting of 21 different species of fig plants along a river running through oil palm plantations. Riparian or riverine zones are the strips of land on both sides of rivers. Protecting and restoring these areas have multiple benefits for people and nature. The root systems of plants growing on banks help to prevent soil degradation and agricultural run-off like fertilisers from entering and polluting rivers. In addition to improving water quality, this can also help regulate river flows, potentially lessening the scale of flooding and water shortages downstream .
The trees being planted include those resistant to flooding and food trees for orangutans and other wildlife. Through restoration, we’re also increasing the connectivity between fragmented forests, allowing animals more areas for travelling and for finding food.
Credit: WWF-Malaysia/Mazidi Abd Ghani
Creating wildlife corridors
We are helping to restore a 14km-long wildlife corridor, covering 1,000 hectares within a commercial plantation in Sabah. The idea is that the corridor allows animals to travel through plantations safely and can help to link up fragmented areas of natural forest and protected reserves.
The landscape approach undertaken within our partnership with WWF looks at how the area can be treated as a holistic ecosystem, encompassing plantations, existing protected areas and the habitats found in between. That means everyone – businesses, government, NGOs – has a part to play in wildlife conservation.
And by allowing otherwise potentially isolated wildlife to mix, the programme is helping to ensure viable and healthy breeding populations and minimise human–wildlife conflict at the same time. Orangutans, elephants and clouded leopards have already been spotted in the corridors we’re restoring.
Credit: WWF-Malaysia/Edwin Matulin
To generate change, we need partnerships
Because our collective ability to build a sustainable future relies on collaboration, our work with NGOs and communities is mirrored in our efforts to create partnerships that support nature with business and governments.
We’re also part of the World Economic Forum’s Nature Action Agenda, which brings together governments, business, investors and civil society to cooperate for action on biodiversity, and of , which mobilises private companies to protect and restore biodiversity in their supply chains.
Nature is one of our greatest allies in the fight against climate change and efforts to reducing inequalities and improving livelihoods. That is why as Unilever we’ll continue working with partners to protect and regenerate nature.
Delve deeper into our landscape work
Main image credit: Photos © Mazidi Abd Ghani / @WWF-Malaysia
How can you spot future-fit farming? Look for the bees. Over the last ten years, we’ve been working with farmers and smallholders, finding ways both to protect biodiversity and to secure our supply chains. Here’s why.
‘Getting it done’ was the theme of Climate Week in New York. That goal is more pressing than ever. To hit net zero by 2050, climate economists say the world needs to invest 2–3%* of GDP each year. It’s a big ask, but the world could experience -10% off GDP if we don’t.
WWF’s Sabah Landscapes programme in Malaysia combines conservation and sustainable development by integrating the protection of forests, wildlife and rivers into the production of RSPO certified palm oil.