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Regenerating nature

Average read time: 5 minutes

We’re pioneering an ambitious approach to restore the health of our planet, both in our supply chain and beyond.

Our ambition

It takes around 4 million hectares of land to grow the raw materials for Unilever products, which are used by 3.4 billion people every day. We want to make sustainable living commonplace – and we simply can’t do that unless we protect and regenerate the natural world.

We believe nature holds the key to solving the climate crisis too – by capturing and storing carbon in land and ocean ecosystems. It’s estimated that by protecting and restoring forests around the world, humanity can achieve around one-fifth of the emissions cuts needed by 2030 to prevent catastrophic climate change.

The current level of nature loss and climate change is already resulting in real and significant risks to economies, businesses and communities.

The only option now is systemic change – transforming the way we use land everywhere. This crisis calls for a paradigm shift in everything about the way we approach our relationship with nature and the way we design our agricultural systems. It’s time to regenerate agricultural systems that have been overworked, overused and depleted.

Regenerative agriculture is critical for our business. It helps us to ensure food security and supply chain resilience through the supply of agricultural raw materials. It is also a key lever for Unilever’s Nutrition Business Group to progress towards our net zero target.

Unilever’s Climate & Nature Fund is helping to accelerate and scale regenerative agriculture. Launched in 2020, our Climate & Nature Fund is a commitment to invest €1 billion by 2030 in meaningful climate, nature, and resource efficiency projects, to transform the way our products are made and reach end of life. The projects supported by the fund aim to help Unilever progress towards its goal to improve the health of the planet, including reaching net zero by 2039, while also driving growth and increasing resilience.

At a farm level, this means applying regenerative agriculture practices – which is why we’ve developed our Regenerative Agriculture Principles (PDF 8.34 MB), designed to enhance our Sustainable Agriculture Code (PDF 7.67 MB).

It also means being more ambitious than ever before by looking outside of the farm boundary and aiming to protect and regenerate natural spaces, both in our supply chain and beyond it.

planting a tree

Our approach to regenerating nature

A healthy natural ecosystem is essential for the resilience of our supply chain and our business. It is also a critical lever for achieving net zero. Our approach to nature encompasses regeneration and restoration – enabled by partnerships, transparency and technology.

The Unilever Sustainable Agriculture Code (SAC) has been one of the major tools in our sustainable sourcing programme since 2010. Through it, we have reached hundreds of suppliers and hundreds of thousands of farmers, helping them implement the principles of sustainable agriculture.

However, this has not yet reached the level where the overall decline in soil health and biodiversity has been stopped or reversed, farming has become more profitable, water quality has been improved, or where farming has become truly climate resilient.

So, we need to acknowledge that the compliance-oriented approach has not been effective enough and introduce a new way of working. We need to urgently scale up the use of technologies and agriculture practices that can protect soils, increase water efficiency, manage on-farm vegetation and crop diversity, and reduce emissions while maintaining yields.

To do this, we’re working with a wide variety of stakeholders on targeted programmes to implement regenerative farming practices and protect, conserve and restore natural ecosystems. A big part of this is engaging and supporting the farmers and smallholders who are vital to the maintenance of these environments.

Introducing our Regenerative Agriculture Principles

We have created a set of Regenerative Agriculture Principles (PDF 8.34 MB), which sit alongside our Sustainable Agriculture Code (PDF 7.88 MB).

The Unilever Regenerative Agriculture Principles are agricultural practices focused on delivering positive outcomes in terms of nourishing the soil, increasing farm biodiversity, improving water quality and climate resilience, capturing carbon, and restoring and regenerating the land.

We are members of the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform (SAI Platform), and our own Regenerative Agricultural Principles supported the development of its new ‘Regenerating Together’ global framework. Together with 170 members across the agri-food industry, we are using a globally aligned approach for the transition to regenerative agriculture practices. The ‘Regenerating Together’ programme has grown from the industry recognising that we must evolve our approach to sustainable agriculture, to an agreement that we need to drive measurable outcomes to create a resilient food supply chain. We believe this framework sets a new standard for regenerative agriculture globally, while providing the flexibility that’s needed at farm level.

Regenerating nature in practice

Our regenerative agriculture programme was launched with suppliers in 2022, building on our previous Lighthouse Programmes. Since then, we have set up projects, designed to implement our Regenerative Agriculture Principles, addressing the challenges and unique needs of different crops and landscapes. Together with a network of soil and farming experts, we’re helping suppliers to identify which practices will deliver the most positive impact overall.

The programme also aims to provide a framework to measure the project impacts. Although change in agriculture is usually measured over several years, we have begun to gather early results from these projects. They show that the projects are starting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase biodiversity, improve water efficiency and quality, and strengthen soil health.

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