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Using our voice for a zero carbon future
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We’re calling on everyone – businesses, governments and international alliances – to come together to tackle climate change.
The race to achieve a zero carbon economy and society must be a collective effort, and business alone cannot drive the transition at the speed that is required. We’re calling on all governments to set ambitious net zero targets, as well as short-term emissions reduction targets, supported with enabling policy frameworks such as carbon pricing. This is both a moral and business imperative.
Global climate leadership
Progress on our own climate change targets means nothing in an overheated world. We advocate for national climate policies that advance the Paris Agreement on Climate Change to limit global temperature increases to well below 2°C, and ideally no more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, by the end of this century.
We believe the world must reach net zero emissions by 2050, and preferably much earlier – to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
This is an enormous task. Nothing is more powerful than demonstrating to governments that accelerated progress in decarbonising the economy is actually possible.
That’s why we’ve set ambitious goals to eliminate emissions from our operations, to achieve net zero emissions across our value chain, and to halve the greenhouse gas emissions from consumer use of our products. We want other companies to follow our lead and set science-based emissions goals, including our suppliers.
We’re also working in partnership with others to scale up action around the world through multiple private sector groups and coalitions.
International climate advocacy
The annual United Nations Intergovernmental Climate Conference is always a critical moment to accelerate global climate commitments. We were an early signatory to the We Mean Business open letter to G20 leaders calling for higher ambition ahead of COP26. Subsequently we partnered with the UK government as a Principal Partner of COP26 in Glasgow. Our former Unilever CEO, Alan Jope, served as a member of the COP26 Business Leaders Group to rally UK and international businesses. Read more about .
We also attended COP27, to call for higher ambition national climate plans, increased finance for climate mitigation and adaptation in vulnerable countries, and energy and food systems transformation, including the building of more resilient and sustainable food chains through sustainable agriculture.
We advocated for countries to strengthen emissions reduction plans to achieve net zero by mid-century and put in place enabling policy measures. When possible, we advocate directly to heads of state, ministers and government organisations on the importance of climate action.
We collaborate with our peers and partners through various international alliances – who are all aligned with the ambitions of the Paris Agreement – to advocate for international climate action. These include:
Is the organisation’s climate position aligned with the aim and ambition of the Paris Agreement?
We Mean Business
We support the advocacy work of We Mean Business, a coalition of influential business groups and we’re a member of its Corporate Advisory Group to engage a record number of businesses around the world in taking action on climate change. Ahead of the COP26 UN climate talks, we were one of over 600 companies that wrote to G20 governments to demand stronger climate commitments, including climate finance for developing countries, ending fossil fuel subsidies, and putting a price on carbon.
World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)
The WBCSD is a CEO-led organisation of nearly 200 companies committed to sustainable business. We’re working extensively across a number of projects and initiatives with other members.
World Economic Forum (WEF) Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders
Alan Jope, former Unilever CEO, was a member of WEF’s Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, which advocates ambitious action on climate change. The group meets annually to collaborate to drive action on climate change and raise ambition for the yearly UN Climate Conference.
Transform to Net Zero
We are a founding member of Transform to Net Zero which aims to accelerate achievement of an inclusive net zero global economy no later than 2050. Together we are enabling business transformation, taking action to reach net zero targets, and creating incentives for net zero strategies.
Exponential Roadmap Initiative
This initiative brings together innovators, transformers and disrupters taking action in line with 1.5°C, with the mission to halve emissions before 2030. As a partner, we co-founded the 1.5°C Supply Chain Leaders initiative to support suppliers to align with a net zero future.
Business Ambition for 1.5°C
We were one of the first companies to commit to and set a science-based target for reducing emissions in line with the 1.5°C ambition of the Paris Agreement. At the UN Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit, our former Unilever CEO, Alan Jope, was honoured with an Ambitious Climate Leader Award by Lise Kingo, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, for making this commitment.
UN Global Compact (UNGC)
We’re a member of the UNGC’s Caring for Climate Campaign and we’ve implemented the UNGC’s Business Leadership Criteria on Carbon Pricing. We also support its Guide to Responsible Engagement in Climate Policy.
Issue-specific climate alliances
Aligning lobbying activities with 1.5°C
We’ve committed to ensuring that all direct lobbying relevant to climate policy is consistent with our stated objectives in delivering the 1.5°C ambition of the Paris Agreement. We support policies that accelerate change towards a low-carbon economy, drive growth and reduce risk. Furthermore, we have long championed the importance of aligning indirect climate lobbying through industry groups, climate alliances and trade associations.
The management system for Unilever’s direct and indirect climate policy advocacy is overseen by our Global Sustainability and Global Corporate Affairs teams. For direct lobbying we adhere to the following process:
- Global climate advocacy priorities are defined through an annual planning and review process. In line with our commitment, all direct lobbying priorities are assessed to ensure consistency with our objectives in delivering the 1.5°C ambition of the Paris Agreement. Plans are approved by the Global EVP for Communications and Corporate Affairs and Global EVP for Sustainability.
- Priorities and guidance are then given to Unilever’s Business Groups and our in-country Sustainability and Corporate Affairs teams, who apply our global objectives taking the local context into account.
- The Global Head of Sustainability - Environment and the Global Head of Corporate Affairs meet monthly to review this process and any flagged issues.
All public policy engagement that Unilever undertakes must adhere to our Code of Business Principles, which are endorsed by our Chief Executive Officer. Colleagues that engage with trade associations must also undertake mandatory compliance training.
For indirect lobbying, we adhere to the following process:
- In 2019, we asked all trade associations, of which Unilever is a member, . In some cases, this triggered discussions to clarify existing positions.
- Unilever reviews its membership of trade associations on an annual basis and is committed to conducting a full, global trade association review every three years. In 2022, we conducted the first review since our CEO wrote to all trade associations to confirm that their lobbying activities are in line with the Paris Agreement. This review included scoping which trade associations are aligned with Unilever’s Climate Transition Action Plan.
- Moreover, our Trade Association Standard, an internal Unilever document approved by the Unilever Leadership Executive, has been updated to give guidance to all our country teams that they must seek confirmation from trade associations that their climate policy work is consistent with Unilever's positions and the 1.5-degree ambitions of the Paris Agreement.
- Furthermore, we are committed to publishing an annual list of principal trade associations and climate specific alliances and advocacy groups. This includes disclosing alignment with the Paris Agreement. We also publish a climate policy position that we use to assess our trade association memberships.
- Finally, in 2022 at COP27 Sharm El-Sheikh, we supported the launch of the Corporate Knights Action Declaration on Climate Policy Engagement – this included a commitment to monitor and disclose how our own and our major industry/trade associations’ policy engagements align with the Paris Agreement. We will disclose this by the end of 2023.
We have put in place the following processes to ensure alignment with trade associations, or appropriate action where there is misalignment:
- Where trade associations are unclear of their position and whether they are 1.5 aligned, we offer guidance and support to help reach the correct conclusion and agree a way forward. In some circumstances a trade association may be advocating for policy change that runs counter to Unilever’s interests or position. In these circumstances our preference is to engage the trade association to determine: a) why their position is at odds with ours; and b) if their position(s) can change.
- If a trade association’s position cannot be made consistent with Unilever’s, then we reserve the right to withdraw our membership and make this information public.
- In some instances, there may be a clash of positions, but it may be decided that Unilever’s interests are best served by staying within the trade association. If this happens then Unilever reserves the right to make a public statement to this effect. We will then continue to work with the trade association to align its climate policy position to Unilever's.
Our position on carbon pricing
Carbon pricing – the concept of applying a cost to each tonne of carbon emitted – is a cost levied by governments to encourage polluters to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas they emit. It is a way to encourage investment in low-carbon solutions and accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy. Many experts believe it is the single most effective way to reduce emissions.
Unilever has consistently advocated in favour of carbon pricing policies at levels in line with the delivery of the Paris Agreement. We signed the World Bank’s carbon pricing statement to encourage others to do the same. We support the Coalition’s High-Level Commission on Carbon Prices ($40–80 per tonne by 2020 rising to $50–100 per tonne by 2030, provided a supportive policy environment is in place). We also , as these act as negative carbon prices.
Forward-looking companies are also setting their own internal price voluntarily. – which is used to inform our investment decision-making – is currently set at €70 per tonne of CO2. This is aligned with expert recommendations and our ambition to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C.
Transparency on climate change
We support the aims of the and believe that businesses should communicate the risks and opportunities of climate change. We’ve adopted the TCFD’s recommendations from the start, to help stakeholders understand the impacts of climate change on our business.
We report annually on progress against our Climate Transition Action Plan. Our 2022 contains our second CTAP Progress Report, as well as our latest 1.5°C scenario analysis. The outcomes from our scenario analysis provide us with initial high-level insights into the potential business and financial impacts from climate change which forms an important input to our strategic planning process.
We have participated in CDP since it was founded in 2000. We publish our submissions for the CDP investor questionnaires each year: