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Our deforestation-free progress

By the end of 2023, we had the infrastructure, monitoring, and verification systems in place to manage a deforestation-free supply chain. This resulted in 97.5% of our palm oil, paper and board, tea, soy, and cocoa order volumes being independently verified as deforestation-free.

That means we can drive continuous improvement within our supply chain which is very much ‘live’: training and supporting new smallholder farmers to become deforestation-free, verifying the sourcing by new suppliers working with us, and holding our suppliers to account when grievances arise.

To drive deforestation-free sourcing, we have made fundamental transformations both in our supply chain and with our suppliers.

  1. Working with suppliers

    • Focusing our sourcing with suppliers who share our sustainability ambitions and developing deeper relationships around clear requirements through our industry-leading cross-commodity People & Nature Policy.
    • Prioritising sourcing from areas of lower risk of deforestation.
    • Substantially strengthening our supplier contractual framework and creating the first-of-its-kind deforestation-free independent verification protocols for our key crops.
    • Driving transparency and accountability through public disclosure of our grievance tracker.
    • Publishing information on our suppliers, mills, and facilities as well as our protocols and methodologies.
    • Evolving and improving our 'live' supply chain and methodologies over time.
  2. Directly investing in infrastructure, technology and innovation

    • Investment in sourcing infrastructure
      • In palm oil, we have invested over $360 million in our Unilever Oleochemicals facility, in Sei Mangkei in Indonesia, to help us source more directly with a simplified and compressed supply chain.
      • In the past, we purchased materials like Palm Fatty Acid Distillate (PFAD) and Palm Stearin.
      • Before now, there was no way to control the sourcing of some of these materials. This investment will help transform a footprint of over 4 million tons of previously untraceable palm oil – that’s almost 1 million hectares in the first mile that we would otherwise not be able to impact. Working in this way also enables us to build direct relationships with around 100 strategic mills and suppliers – a reduction of up to 80% of that supply base footprint.
      • In Soy, we delivered a groundbreaking partnership to develop a green refinery in Brazil. The refinery will generate a supply chain of over 1 million tons of deforestation-free soy.
    • Investment in technology
      • We are building greater traceability and transparency with the help of cutting-edge technology. For example, we expanded the coverage of our palm oil monitoring platform, which uses satellite imagery and geolocation data to measure deforestation in our supply chain; and, along with USAID, WRI, NASA, Google, and others, we have developed the Forest Data Partnership.
    • Investment in innovation
      • We are reformulating our products to have a smaller material and environmental footprint. For example, we are working with new biotech innovations to develop new origins and feedstocks for our business and the industry, reducing the reliance on single monocrop feedstocks and, ultimately, reducing pressure on the land.
  3. Working with smallholders

    • Empowering farmers and smallholders in the communities and areas we source from is a key pillar of our action through our direct sourcing programmes and smallholder development hubs.
      • In palm, our new compressed and direct footprint enables us to manage a deforestation-free supply chain with direct positive impact for nearly 40,000 smallholder farmers. We are working with independent mills and others to physically map the smallholders in a new partnership with Meridia. So far, we have mapped 28,000 smallholder farmers.
      • In cocoa, we are building on a proud history of being 100% certified and polygon mapping the farmers in our supply chain. We have already mapped over 25,000 farmers in our direct supply chain.
      • In tea, we are driving the trustea certification across South Asia and have developed an innovative tracetea app to digitally map tea growers at scale. In 2023, we mapped 20,100 tea farmers through this app.
  4. Driving protection, restoration, and regeneration of nature

    • We are driving the change beyond our own supply chain by investing in landscape and jurisdictional approaches that seek to protect and restore natural ecosystems, promote responsible production at scale and empower whole communities.
    • Unilever has invested in six such landscapes across South East Asia and Africa to date and, by the end of 2023, this had helped to protect and restore 290,000 hectares of land and forest.
    • Our Climate & Nature Fund continues to support our work to protect and regenerate nature. In partnership with the Rimba Collective, we aim to enhance and protect rainforests in South East Asia.

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