London/Rotterdam - Unilever today celebrated 10 years of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, which is now in its tenth and final year. Alan Jope, CEO, reinforced Unilever’s commitment to making sustainable living commonplace for 8 billion people, and called for collective action to ensure that the crises of social inequality and climate are not neglected in the wake of Covid-19.
Speaking at a global virtual event, CEO Alan Jope said, “The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan was a game-changer for our business. Some goals we have met, some we have missed, but we are a better business for trying. It has required immense ingenuity, dedication and collaboration to get to where we are now. We have made very good progress, but there is still more to do.
“The pressures on the planet are getting worse, and social inequality has reached a critical point, being made even more severe by the devastating pandemic we’re living through. These issues are just as urgent as they were before Covid-19 struck, and - like Covid-19 - they will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable. More than 700 million people live in extreme poverty, on less than $1.90 a day, and The World Bank estimates that an extra 40 million to 60 million people will fall into extreme poverty in 2020, as a result of Covid-19. The climate crisis risks adding hundreds of millions more.
“Businesses across sectors, governments across continents, NGOs, academics, researchers, scientists… we must all come together. We can’t put climate action on hold. We can’t tell the people who live in poverty to wait. 2020 is the year in which an unthinkable amount of public money is going to be spent in support of getting the economy back on track. But we should not be seeking to get the economy ‘back to normal’. Instead, we must emerge stronger and more resilient than we were before; ready to take decisive and definitive action to look after people and the planet,” added Jope.
“As the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan journey concludes, we will take everything we’ve learned and build on it. We will do more of what has worked well, we will correct what hasn’t, and we will set ourselves new challenges. And while we don’t really know what the world will look like post-Covid-19, I am convinced that there will be no future unless we double down on our commitments to look after people and the planet.
He added, “Before the Covid-19 crisis, it was already clear that the current capitalist model is in need of repair. Globalisation and capitalism are good for a business like ours, but globalisation and capitalism at the expense of people and the planet are not. It’s therefore up to businesses like us, working with partners– NGOs, government organisations, academics, suppliers, customers – to drive a new model of capitalism, and build a better future.”
10 years of Sustainable Living – and the future
Every year, Unilever has reported progress against our targets in our Sustainable Living Report. Some of the achievements include:
- Reaching 1.3 billion people through our health and hygiene programmes.
- Reducing the total waste footprint per consumer use of our products by 32%, and achieving zero waste to landfill across all our factories.
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from our own manufacturing by 65%, and achieving 100% renewable grid electricity across our sites.
- Reducing sugar across all our sweetened tea-based beverages by 23%, and 56% of our foods portfolio now meets recognised High Nutrition Standards.
- Enabling 2.34 million women to access initiatives aiming to promote their safety, develop their skills or expand their opportunities, we've moved towards a gender balanced workplace in which 51% of management roles are held by women.
Rebecca Marmot, Chief Sustainability Officer, explained, “There are many highlights from the last ten years. Unilever’s Sustainable Living Brands – which include brands like Dove, Hellmann’s and Domestos – have consistently outperformed the average growth rate of the rest of the portfolio since the metric was introduced in 2014. We have avoided over €1bn in costs, by improving water and energy efficiency in our factories, and using less material and producing less waste. The USLP has also become a decisive factor to attract the best talent; and has been instrumental to forging strong partnerships with NGOs, government organisations and other businesses.
“But the USLP journey has also presented hurdles along the way. Unilever has many programmes to improve livelihoods and to enhance opportunities for women; but measuring their actual impact has proved extremely difficult. Likewise, the complexity of many of the global supply chains that we source from has made our sustainable procurement targets extra challenging,” added Marmot.
Following on from the USLP, Unilever is committed to continuing to be a sustainable leader and has developed a new, fully integrated corporate strategy: the Unilever Compass.
The Unilever Compass is based on three core beliefs: that brands with purpose grow, companies with purpose last, and people with purpose thrive. Supporting our three beliefs, the Unilever Compass lays out 15 multi-year priorities that cover the full spectrum of Unilever’s business and wider ecosystem. Each priority will have ambitious targets, with corresponding programmes and projects. They will tackle key challenges such as packaging and waste, gender equality, human rights, and fair value – as well as climate change and social inclusion. The Compass is underpinned by the same rigour as the USLP, and will be more holistic, inclusive, and far-reaching than ever before. More details will be unveiled in due course.
Alan Jope concluded, “The USLP is drawing to a close after 10 years but the journey towards achieving our purpose of making sustainable living commonplace certainly isn’t. In fact, as the world is changing increasingly quickly, our employees, our consumers, our customers, our suppliers, our partners expect more from us. We know that we can continue to lead the charge, but we need to be better, bolder, and faster."