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Our metrics

Our metrics enable us to measure and report progress on our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

Our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) has three big goals: to improve health and well-being, reduce our environmental impact and enhance livelihoods. Supporting these goals are nine commitments, which are underpinned by metrics and targets spanning social, environmental and economic performance in our value chain. We have a clear methodology for each metric which we have kept under regular review since launching the USLP in 2010.

Improving health and well-being metrics

By 2020 our goal is to help more than 1 billion people take action to improve their health and well-being.

The main way we assess progress on health and hygiene is to track the cumulative number of people reached by an intervention from one of our programmes such as handwashing, self-esteem, oral health and sanitation.

Health & hygiene

Our oral health target measures the number of people reached through oral health improvement programmes educated to change their tooth brushing habits.

For our safe drinking water target we measure the litres of drinking water provided, rather than the number of people reached, aiming for 150 billion litres of safe drinking water by 2020. This target focuses our efforts on what matters most for health – the ongoing consumption of safe drinking water.

Improving nutrition

For our target on improving nutrition we track the percentage of products which meet our highest nutritional standards (PDF | 324KB) based on globally recognised dietary guidelines for salt, saturated and trans fat, added sugar and kilocalories. Since 2012, we have measured progress by volume rather than by product. The majority of our products meet, or are better than, benchmarks on national nutritional recommendations.

In 2013 we reviewed the nutrient levels derived from globally recognised dietary guidelines, which form the basis of our highest nutritional standards. We adapted the criteria underlying the highest nutritional standards and these are product-focused and align with our category-specific programmes. This enables us to prioritise the nutrients that matter most for a particular product.

Reducing environmental impact metrics

By 2030 our goal is to halve the environmental footprint of the making and use of our products compared to 2010 as we grow our business. We aim to halve the waste and water impact related to the consumer use of our products by 2020 and the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the lifecycle of our products by 2030.

Greenhouse gas, water use and waste & packaging

To measure waste and GHG impacts we carry out a detailed analysis for over 3,000 products in 14 countries. For water, our analysis covers over 600 water using products across seven water-scarce markets.

The products we analyse are chosen because they share similar relevant characteristics with a wider group of products (known as a ‘product cluster’). We extrapolate the results from representative individual products to their product cluster so our final analysis covers most of our sales volume by category in each of the in-scope markets studied.

Most Unilever products are in scope for the footprint calculation. We exclude product groups for which it is not possible to acquire the required data with sufficient accuracy. For example, partnership products, Food Solutions, bulk and export items, and tools and devices. We don’t include products that have an exceptionally high number of uses per consumer unit (eg hundreds of cotton swabs in a box of Q Tips) because this would distort the per-consumer-use performance measure. These exclusions are applied consistently across all footprint performance measures.

We take the following approach to measuring our environmental impacts:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions are measured in CO2 equivalent emissions across six phases of the lifecycle: raw materials (primary packaging, secondary packaging and ingredients), manufacturing, distribution, retail, consumer use and disposal.
  • Water use is measured as the water in litres in our products (as an ingredient) plus the water used by consumers for our products in water using sub-divisions in seven water-scarce countries (China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey and the USA). Agricultural water and water use related to non-renewable materials (raw material phase) are not included as these data are not available at the necessary quality or accuracy.
  • Waste is measured in grams from disposal (after use by our consumers) of our primary and secondary packaging where this has not been recycled, reused, or recovered, plus product left behind in the primary pack at disposal (“leftover”).

The GHG and waste generated and water abstracted by our manufacturing operations is measured separately as part of our eco-efficiency programme.

In January 2017, we announced a new target: to ensure all of our plastic packaging is designed to be reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025. Our performance for 2017, can be found in the Waste and Packaging section of our Sustainable Living Report for 2017.

Sustainable sourcing

Sustainable sourcing is measured as the percentage (by weight) of raw or packaging material sourced from verifiable sustainable renewable sources or made from recycled materials. To assess progress we work with suppliers and their farmers on self-assessment against the requirements of the Unilever Sustainable Agriculture Code. Details of how this programme works, and when we consider a raw material to be “sustainably sourced” can be found in the Scheme Rules (PDF | 2MB).

We use an independent verifier to check whether self-assessments are robust and credible. When deviations are found - where suppliers and farmers thought they were in full compliance whereas in reality they were not - we have applied an adjustment factor to our sustainably sourced volumes.

In addition to this self-assessment process against our Sustainable Agriculture Code, we also rely on the certification of our suppliers who are certified to external sustainability standards such as the Rainforest Alliance, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil or the Round Table on Responsible Soy.

Enhancing livelihoods metrics

By 2020 our goal is to enhance the livelihoods of millions of people as we grow our business, through our commitments on Fairness in the Workplace, Opportunities for Women, and Inclusive Business. We report our progress against metrics that we designed in consultation with external stakeholders, and continually assess them to ensure they remain relevant.

To support our work, we have developed an Electronic Measurement, Analytics and Reporting Solution (ELMA) which is enabling us to more robustly track and evidence our results. In 2017, ELMA was deployed for all metric initiatives, which previously depended on paper to record progress. ELMA enables us to have a secure audit trail with records and results all in one place.

Assurance and independent review

In 2011 a panel of lifecycle analysis experts led by Professor Roland Clift (University of Surrey, UK) conducted a scientific review of our approach to measuring and reducing our environmental impacts and concluded it to be sound and appropriate.

They looked at the scope and boundaries of the metrics, the validity of calculation methods, assumptions and data sources. The Panel’s full report can be found here (PDF | 98KB). They concluded:

“We consider Unilever’s approach to be sound and appropriate. Unilever has selected a set of impacts which are relevant to describing the lifecycle environmental impacts of the company’s businesses and products. The baseline data provide a representative picture of current performance in terms of these impacts, and consistent application of the approach should give a sound indication of progress towards the targets the company has set.”

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