Our environmental reporting has been independently assured for 20 years. This year we attained limited assurance of selected USLP and Environmental and Occupational Safety performance indicators.
Our approach to assurance
Independent external assurance helps us to drive continuous improvement in performance and in the quality, rigour and credibility of our data. We need accurate and robust data on our sustainability performance to help us make decisions, monitor performance and report progress to our stakeholders.
Our Environmental and Occupational Safety performance measures have been independently assured since 1996 by globally recognised providers. In 2011 we began to assure selected key performance measures in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP). Assurance of the Unilever Green Sustainability Bond started in 2014.
PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) provide independent assurance of the USLP, and DNV GL and KPMG LLP provide independent assurance in relation to our Green Sustainability Bond.
We operate a wide range of processes and activities across our operations covering strategy, planning, execution, and performance management. It is the responsibility of Unilever’s management to ensure that:
- Appropriate arrangements are in place to prepare our performance information.
- Reported information reflects our performance.
- Data is meaningful and consistent with stated definitions, scope and boundaries.
- Any specific exclusions are stated clearly and explained.
- We describe openly any assumptions we make as well as our accounting and calculation methods.
- We aim for transparency to enable users to have confidence in the integrity of our reporting.
Risk management is integrated into every stage of our activities, processes and systems to ensure we mitigate accuracy and reliability risks. Our Corporate Audit function provides us with an objective and independent review of the effectiveness of risk management and internal control systems throughout Unilever. External independent assurance from globally recognised assurance service providers supports our internal controls.
We have developed a phased approach to assurance that will enable us to obtain limited assurance over our 9 pillar commitments that are central to the USLP by the target completion deadlines – with the aim of assuring each pillar metric and selected underlying metrics at least every two years.
External assurance in 2016
We reappointed PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) to provide independent assurance for the sixth consecutive year. PwC’s assurance engagement is in accordance with ISAE 3000 and they apply the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW) Code of Ethics. The Unilever Board's Audit Committee oversees the USLP assurance programme.
In 2016, PwC’s scope was to provide limited assurance of selected Environmental and Occupational Safety (EOS) performance measures and two USLP pillar commitments: Health & Hygiene and Waste as well as four USLP sustainable sourcing metrics (paper and board, herbs and vegetables, fruit, and sugar).
We plan to assure nutrition, fairness in the workplace, opportunities for women, inclusive business, greenhouse gases, water and sustainable sourcing in 2017, as well as selected EOS metrics.
Unilever’s Basis of Preparation 2016 (PDF | 693KB) contains a full description of all the USLP and EOS performance measures – including the definition, scope and data preparation and assumptions – and the two pillar commitments that have been subject to limited assurance by PwC’s work. PwC’s Limited Assurance Report (PDF | 208KB) concludes their work for the 2016 reporting year.
There are currently no industry norms or globally recognised practices for evaluating and measuring many of the performance indicators in the USLP. We have developed a phased approach that will enable us to obtain limited assurance over the nine commitments which are central to our USLP.
The environmental performance indicators assured were chosen because they reflect the main environmental aspects for our manufacturing sites, including utilities consumption, and waste, air and water pollution. Occupational safety indicators were chosen because a safe workplace environment is always a top priority for our business.
As we incorporate more sustainability data in our Annual Report and Accounts, we are aligning our assurance process with our financial reporting timetable. As a result, independent assurance was provided in our Annual Report and Accounts 2016 in February 2017, apart from our Sustainable Sourcing and Health & Hygiene metrics. These were assured in time for publication of the online Unilever Sustainable Living 2016 Report in May 2017.
The documents relating to independent external assurance in the years prior to 2016 are available in Reports & Publications.
Unilever Green Sustainability Bond Report and assurance
In March 2014 Unilever issued a £250 million Green Sustainability Bond, inviting investors to support our vision for sustainable growth while investing in Unilever credit. The four-and-a-half year bond, due 19 December 2018, was a first for Unilever, the first green bond in the sterling market and also the first to be issued by an FMCG company. Proceeds are being used on projects linked to greenhouse gases, water and waste targets in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.
We worked with independent sustainability service provider DNV GL to develop a Green Sustainability Bond framework which provides clarity and transparency around the Environmental and Use of Proceeds criteria. Together these criteria meet the guidance given in the Green Bond Principles (comprising Voluntary Process Guidelines for Issuing Green Bonds dated 13 January 2014) that there should be a robust process and disclosure by an issuer to facilitate understanding of the characteristics of a bond by investors and others in this area.
This is the third Unilever Green Sustainability Bond Report for the year to 31st December 2016.
Projects benefiting from proceeds of the Bond
- Spreads: An extension to our existing factory in Johnson County, Kansas, US. The design for this site introduces many eco-efficiency features such as energy efficient drives and lighting, heat recovery from steam and refrigeration systems and LEED building certification. In the early operational phase.
- Home Care: Our factory at Anderbold, Johannesburg, South Africa produces home care brands for the domestic market. The site design employs eco-efficiency improvements including rainwater harvesting, water recycling, daylight harvesting and LEED building certification. In the early operational phase.
- Home Care: An investment in Chengdu, Sichuan, China is Unilever’s eighth factory in the country. The site, which produces laundry powders, brings eco-efficiency improvements including water recycling, a biomass furnace, LED lighting and LEED building certification. In the early operational phase.
- Home and Personal Care: A new multi-category factory in Selçuklu-Konya, Turkey will produce brands employing eco-efficiency measures such as rainwater harvesting, water recycling, solar water heating and LEED building certification. In the construction phase during 2016.
- Refreshment: This project further strengthens the environmental credentials of our ice cream cabinets at the point of sale through the purchase of HFC-free freezer cabinets using natural hydrocarbon refrigerants (HC). Freezers have been purchased for distribution and operation and this project is completed.
Unilever Green Sustainability Bond assurance statements
The factories in the early operational phase have each achieved or are on track to achieve all of the relevant environmental criteria for such phase other than currently (1) full water reduction for the Home Care factory in China, (2) full water reduction and LEED certification for the Home Care factory in South Africa and (3) LEED certification for the Spreads factory in the US. We continue to evaluate the performance of these factories and are taking steps to enhance their environmental performance to meet these remaining environmental criteria. The Home and Personal Care factory in Turkey meets the relevant environmental criteria for the construction phase.
These statements have been independently assured by DNV GL – see Downloads (PDF | 370KB) to read the DNV GL assurance statement and which also lists the relevant environmental criteria.
In the report on the Green Sustainability Bond as at 31 January 2015, Unilever confirmed that all of the net proceeds of our Green Sustainability Bond:
- Have been managed according to the Use of Proceeds Criteria*; and
- Have been spent with the above projects to fund actual project expenditure*. In addition in the previous report on the Green Sustainability Bond as at 31 December 2015, Unilever confirmed that the HFC freezer cabinets meet the relevant environmental criteria for such freezers.
Unilever Green Sustainability Bond assurance to 2018
We will continue to report annually on our progress.
* KPMG LLP provided limited assurance in accordance with ISAE 3000 - see Downloads to read the KPMG LLP assurance report.