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Unilever expands sustainable living ambition


Average read time: 5 minutes

London/Rotterdam - Unilever has announced a third year of good progress on the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, and an intention to expand further its sustainable living ambition to bring about broader change on a global scale.

Unilever logo building

Commenting on progress, Unilever CEO, Paul Polman said: “In the three years since we launched the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan we have learned that sustainability drives business growth and a much deeper connection with our employees and consumers. In 2013, we’ve seen good progress, particularly on targets within our direct control. Our Plan is helping us to save money, reduce risk and drive innovation, and brands that have done the most to embrace sustainable living, like Dove, Lifebuoy, Pureit and Domestos, are enjoying some of our fastest growth.”

In addressing the 100 senior sustainability experts including academics, NGOs, government and business who attended the ‘Making Progress, Driving Change’ event in London today, Polman explained that the company will continue to focus its scale, influence, expertise, and resources on making a fundamental change to entire systems, not just incremental improvements. This will involve stepping up plans to tackle several major global sustainability challenges, including:

  • helping to combat climate change by working to eliminate deforestation, which accounts for up to 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions
  • improving food security by championing sustainable agriculture, and improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers who produce 80% of the food in Asia and Sub Saharan Africa
  • improving health and well-being by helping more than a billion people gain access to safe drinking water, proper sanitation and good hygiene habits

In the area of social impact, Unilever also confirmed that the Sustainable Living Plan has been expanded with a more substantive Enhancing Livelihoods programme focusing on:

  • fairness in the workplace
  • opportunities for women
  • developing inclusive business

These three areas of focus are fundamental to the way Unilever aspires to do business and will help support its continued growth.

In announcing the expanded plan today, Polman, said, “We’re making good progress in reshaping our business for sustainable, equitable growth. But we need to do more. We have always recognised the bigger role that businesses need to play, and now is the moment for Unilever to step up and expand efforts in key areas, driving transformational change where we know we can make the biggest impact. In this way we will leverage our scale and work collaboratively in partnership with others to reach a tipping point in areas that will make a significant difference.”

A detailed report on the progress made against the targets set out in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan and Unilever’s approach to transformational change is available online at:

Editors notes:

In November 2010, Unilever set out the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, committing to a ten year journey towards sustainable growth. What makes the Plan different is that it applies right across the value chain. The Plan takes responsibility not just for Unilever’s own direct operations but for suppliers, distributors and for how consumers use its brands.

The Plan has three big goals to reach by 2020:

  • Help more than 1 billion people improve their health and well-being
  • Halve the environmental footprint of our products
  • Source 100% of agricultural raw materials sustainably and enhance the livelihoods of millions of people

By the end of 2013, Unilever reports that:

  • 48% of agricultural raw materials are now from sustainable sources, up from 14% in 2010.
  • It helped 303 million people improve their health and wellbeing through Lifebuoy, Signal, Pureit and Dove brands, up from 52 million in 2010.
  • The majority of Unilever foods and beverages meet nationally recognised nutritional standards and 31% of foods and beverages meet the highest nutritional standards, based on globally recognised dietary guidelines.
  • It helped and trained over 570,000 smallholder farmers and increased the number of Shakti women micro-entrepreneurs in India that it employs from 48,000 in 2012 to 65,000 in 2013.

In its own factories, Unilever reports excellent progress in 2013:

  • Reducing CO2 emissions from energy by 32% per tonne of production since 2008, the equivalent of taking 200,000 cars off the road.
  • Reducing water abstracted by 29% per tonne of production, or the equivalent of 2 litres of water for every person on the planet.
  • Cutting waste by two thirds per tonne of production, or 97,000 fewer tonnes of waste disposed of in 2013 than in 2008.
  • Achieving zero non hazardous waste to landfill in three quarters of Unilever sites (170), up from 35 sites in 2010.

Brands that have done most to embrace sustainable living are enjoying some of our fastest growth:

  • Dove, Lifebuoy, Domestos and Pureit have all grown double digit on average over the past 3 years.

Costs savings:

  • Avoided costs of €350million since 2008 in reducing raw materials and implementing eco-efficiency measures in factories on energy, water and waste.
  • Implemented new packaging technique which injects gas into plastic bottles creating bubbles in pack walls, cutting plastic by up to 15%. This is now available on Dove Body Wash with plans for further rollout across the portfolio. This technique has the potential to save 27,000 tonnes plastic once fully rolled out.

Innovation and consumer behaviour change from our brands:

  • Sure, Dove, Vaseline compressed deodorants UK launch: around 25% CO2 savings per can, and 40% of the female deodorants we sell in UK are now compressed.
  • Lifebuoy Colour Changing hand wash: helps encourage children to wash their hands with soap for long enough by changing colour after 10 seconds - the time it takes to be protected from germs.
  • Becel and Flora pro.activ ‘It Takes a Village’ challenge: developed to help people with raised cholesterol move to a healthy diet/lifestyle. The challenge has been launched in villages across 6 countries, where 500 people have taken part and 89% have successfully lowered their cholesterol.
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