About our reporting

Our aim is to provide a transparent account of progress against the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan through engaging, insightful and evidence-based reporting.

Scientists in lab

Our Sustainable Living Report

Our annual sustainability report is called our Sustainable Living Report, reflecting our company purpose to make sustainable living commonplace.

What is our Sustainable Living Report?

Our Sustainable Living Report comprises the Sustainable Living section of www.unilever.com, our global website. This is our primary sustainability report and is framed to explain the progress against the three big goals and nine pillars of our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. Our latest Report was published in April 2020.

Our Sustainable Living Report complements our Annual Report and Accounts 2019 (PDF | 8MB) which contains a summary of our progress against the USLP and was published in March 2020.

We do not publish a paper copy of the Sustainable Living Report as we believe an online report reaches many more people more effectively. Our Sustainable Living Report Hub includes a one-page pdf summary of progress against our USLP targets for 2019 and a three-year snapshot of progress. Our interactive module also illustrates our USLP targets.

Our reporting covers the period 1 January to 31 December 2019 (except where indicated otherwise).

Some Unilever operating companies around the world also produce their own country-specific content describing their actions in support of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. Please visit local websites for more information.

Who are our principal audiences?

Our reporting is aimed at a broad range of audiences, including:

  • specialist audiences, such as investors, analysts, NGOs, governments and opinion formers, who are typically interested in more technical sustainability information
  • generalist audiences, such as employees, job seekers and citizens, who are interested in content relating to their personal interests.

Understanding our sustainability impacts and priorities enables us to address the sustainability issues that matter most to our business strategy and to our stakeholders. It also allows us to tailor our reporting so it’s aligned with audiences’ interests and needs. See Defining our materiality process for further information.

External standards and UN goals

We adhere to the principles of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards and many of the original GRI Framework indicators are embedded in our reporting.

We are a signatory to the UN Global Compact principles. We provide an annual update in our Communication on Progress on how we are living out the Compact’s ten principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption in our everyday business operations. We also report on our sustainability governance and leadership.

We contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through the USLP, our Sustainable Living brands and our transformational change agenda. Our index shows how the pillars of the USLP map to the Goals and we include case studies on the SDGs throughout our Sustainable Living Report.

Boundaries and scope

Our impacts are far reaching, so we’ve identified and prioritised the most material issues to our business and to stakeholders across our value chain.

What performance data does our Sustainable Living Report include?

Our Report includes performance data for our direct operations and information on how we’re managing the most material issues across our extended value chain, which encompasses both our supply chain and, in some cases, how our products are used by consumers.

Our Sustainable Living Report 2019, including our USLP targets and metrics, covers all entities in Unilever’s 2019 Annual Report and Accounts (PDF | 8MB) unless otherwise stated (including acquired subsidiary undertakings such as Blue Air – although in most cases there is a lag between acquisition and the inclusion of data in our reporting).

We consistently apply metrics and targets to all relevant parts of our business operations. Even where a metric and target are only relevant to part of business operations (for instance our handwashing target which focuses on markets where we sell Lifebuoy soap), it still applies to 100% of those parts, globally. A number of our targets and metrics also apply to relevant parts of our value chain, such as our GHG, water and waste footprint targets.

Our manufacturing environmental and occupational safety indicators do not include contract production or outsourced support services. Operations and sites where we do not have management control and operations categorised as joint ventures or investments are excluded from the scope of all performance indicators, unless otherwise indicated in Unilever’s Basis of Preparation 2019 (PDF | 429KB).

When setting our targets, we use three things to determine the most relevant and materially impactful scope for each target:

  • our knowledge of our business
  • the markets where we operate and
  • the issues.

We report the material coverage for our targets so that our metrics cover 100% of the scope deemed to be material, unless specifically stated otherwise in our Basis of Preparation.

In some cases, the scope deemed to be material is the same as the total scope. In others it is less because we have applied a management judgement as to what the scope should be. Previous years’ Bases of Preparation are available in our Reports & publications archive.

As part of our ongoing monitoring of the USLP, the Unilever Leadership Executive regularly reviews progress towards our targets. Our Board’s Corporate Responsibility Committee also reviews USLP progress (see Board review below). Find out more about our sustainability governance here.

Ensuring what we publish is robust

We have a number of processes to ensure that we publish information that is accurate and provides a realistic and transparent representation of our business.

USLP Metrics Team

The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan includes many targets, some of which are ground-breaking in what they seek to measure. We have kept our target metrics under regular review since launching the USLP in 2010. In 2016, we established the USLP Metrics Team to provide strategic direction for our metrics and to act as a decision-making body to ensure clarity, appropriateness and rigour of all USLP metrics.

The USLP Metrics Team is chaired by Lysanne Gray, our Executive Vice President, Financial Control, Risk Management, Pensions & Sustainability, and includes representatives from Finance, Communications, Sustainability, Supply Chain and Information & Analytics.

As well as setting principles for the development and governance of metrics, the Metrics Team ensures every metric has an owner who is a senior expert in the subject. This owner is responsible for understanding the activity underlying the metric (such as handwashing practices or sourcing of sustainable palm oil) and its efficient measurement, calculation and validation.

Each metric is supported by a basis of preparation (ie an explanation of how the data is collected and calculated and any assumptions made) to ensure a consistent approach year-on-year.

Blue desktop

Our Electronic, Measurement, Analytics and Reporting Solution

For our USLP targets, we’ve developed a bespoke Electronic, Measurement, Analytics and Reporting Solution (known as ELMA) which those responsible for targets use to report their results each year. We have embedded a number of controls within ELMA to ensure data accuracy, such as electronic validation and algorithms to prevent double counting.

ELMA enables data to be input, reviewed, signed off, and finally locked in the system in accordance with a pre-agreed list of metric owners and approvers (typically a director or vice president). This provides a clear division of responsibilities, an audit trail and ensures there is a centralised, secure and accessible archive of results and their calculation methods.

ELMA has a number of modules: some are increasingly used to collect and validate raw data from the field, such as our Lifebuoy handwashing or Dove self-esteem initiatives, whereas others connect with internal systems, for example to measure our environmental footprint.

For metrics that are less mature or new, there is a requirement that our Finance team validates the result and supporting evidence in ELMA to ensure that calculation methods match the stated basis of preparation and that results are correctly aggregated and consistent with the previous year. (This internal validation is aligned with the external independent assurance of selected USLP targets by PwC, the requirement for which is approved each year by the Board’s Audit Committee). Once all the approvals are in place, our Reporting team signs off the target for publication in our Sustainable Living Report.

Likewise, our Reporting team follows a similar process for gathering narrative information from the business:

  • first, information is gathered, cross-checked for strategic fit and continuity and collated into a holistic narrative. Any statistics or claims supplied (such as obesity rates or sales growth) must be evidenced
  • the narrative is then reviewed by the information provider and / or target owner, and again by our Reporting team
  • finally, it is approved for publication by a director or vice president.

In addition, changes in strategy are reviewed by the relevant member of our Unilever Leadership Executive (ULE, the most senior leaders of our business). Information that has not been published before, for example our palm oil mill list or palm oil grievance tracker, is also approved by the relevant ULE member. Key information is reviewed by our Legal team.

Board review

Our Board reviews and approves our Annual Report, which includes the USLP pillar commitments and commentary that are also published in our Sustainable Living Report.

Our Board’s Corporate Responsibility Committee oversees Unilever’s conduct as a responsible global business and throughout the year it tracks the progress and potential risks associated with the USLP. In 2019 there were discussions on safety, plastic packaging, climate strategy, human rights and supply chain.

Our Board’s Audit Committee oversees the independent assurance programme for the USLP as part of its remit to review risk management. A number of our principal risks are related to sustainability: these are detailed in our Annual Report & Accounts (PDF | 8MB).

Independent assurance

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First environmental report assurance

In addition to the processes above, external assurance of sustainability performance indicators is an important part of our approach and our environmental reporting has been independently assured since 1996. Our social report was assured for the first time in 2004.

Who assures our Sustainable Living Report?

We have been assuring key metrics within the USLP since 2011. In 2019 we reappointed PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) to provide independent assurance of the USLP and Environmental and Occupational Safety (EOS) performance indicators.

PwC’s Assurance Report (PDF | 185KB) describes the work undertaken and their conclusion for the reporting period to 31 December 2019. Documents relating to independent external assurance in the years prior to 2019 are available in our Reports & publications section.

See Independent assurance and our metrics for further information about our assurance process. Each assured metric is documented in its Basis of Preparation (PDF | 429KB). Previous years’ Bases of Preparation are available in our Reports & publications archive.