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Our sustainability governance

Strong governance structures and clear lines of accountability enable us to deliver the commitments in our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP). We also draw on insights from external experts to challenge our thinking.

our sustainable governance

Management structures

Our commitment to sustainable living is embedded into our business agenda through our purpose, vision, business model and Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

Our management structures for sustainable business are integrated into our organisational framework. Key elements include:

Board level - governance and oversight

The Boards of Unilever (Unilever PLC and N.V.)

  • The Boards have the ultimate responsibility for the management, general affairs, direction, performance and long-term success of Unilever

Corporate Responsibility Committee

  • Committee of Non-Executive Directors oversees Unilever’s conduct as a responsible business and governance of our conduct as a responsible company
  • Monitors the progress – and potential risk – of the USLP and reports back on this to the Boards. 

Audit Committee

  • Committee of Non-Executive Directors oversees Unilever's approach to risk management, including the corporate risks and related mitigation/response plans
  • Reviews significant breaches of the Code of Business Principles as part of its remit to review risk management.
  • Oversees the independent assurance programme for the USLP
Unilever Leadership Executive (ULE) - operational leadership of the business
  • The ULE, led by our Chief Executive Officer (Paul Polman), is responsible for managing profit and loss and delivering growth. It monitors implementation and delivery of the USLP
  • At ULE level, sustainability and corporate responsibility are championed and led by our Chief Marketing & Communications Officer (Keith Weed)
Divisional and function leadership - strategic development of our goals

Unilever Sustainable Living Plan Steering Team (USLP ST)

  • Supports the ULE and is accountable for ensuring our sustainability goals are achieved. It meets five times a year
  • Chaired by Keith Weed, it includes a further seven members of ULE: our Chief Financial Officer (Graeme Pitkethly), our three Divisional Presidents (see below), Chief Supply Chain Officer (Marc Engel), Chief R&D Officer (David Blanchard) and Chief Legal Officer (Ritva Sotamaa) as well representatives from our Sustainable Business & Communications, Chief Sustainability Office and Finance teams

Foods and Refreshment (Nitin Paranjpe), Beauty & Personal Care (Alan Jope) and Home Care (Kees Kruythoff) Divisions

  • Our Divisional leadership and brand teams are responsible for the strategic development of our sustainability goals
  • They work in conjunction with our Chief Supply Chain Officer and Chief R&D Officer and the functions they lead as well as our Sustainable Business team

Executive Vice President, Sustainable Business and Communications (Sue Garrard)

  • Leads the integration of sustainability into our business and communications, working with our functions, divisions, brands and country teams to open up opportunities for business growth
  • Member of our USLP Steering Team and supports our Corporate Responsibility Committee

Chief Sustainability Officer (Jeff Seabright)

  • Leads our external sustainability agenda to drive transformational change across markets through advocacy and partnerships
  • Member of our USLP Steering Team
Unilever operating companies - responsible for implementation

Our operating companies

  • Following the strategies of our divisions and functions, and assisted by our Sustainable Business Team, our local companies bring our sustainability goals to life as they drive growth across the business

To ensure alignment between the different elements of our governance structure, ULE member Keith Weed attends the Corporate Responsibility Committee meetings and chairs the USLP Steering Team. Sue Garrard and Jeff Seabright report to Keith Weed.

Specialist input and cross-team networks

We have a number of specialist groups in the business who provide input in key areas and incorporate external advice from a variety of sources. Examples include:

Sustainable Business Team

Transforming our brands into purposeful brands and facilitating the emergence of sustainable innovation. Headed by Karen Hamilton, our Vice President, Sustainable Business and member of the USLP Steering Team. The Sustainable Business Team works alongside our R&D, Supply Chain and Marketing teams to embed sustainability into their market development programmes and open up opportunities for business growth. The team also leads on issues such as circular economy

Energy Board

Drives delivery of our carbon positive ambition at corporate and country level and leads strategic partnerships and policy on renewables. Chaired by our Chief Supply Chain Officer, Marc Engel

Water Board

Steers our strategy and targets on Water, focusing on driving water-smart innovations for business growth. Chaired by our Home Care Category President, Kees Kruythoff

Sustainable Packaging Committee

Steers our strategy and targets on sustainable packaging, understanding stakeholder concerns and bringing in new technologies and partnerships. Chaired by our Chief R&D Officer David Blanchard

Sustainable Sourcing Steering Group

Supports our strategy by promoting sustainable supply chains, focusing on long-term, sustainable access to Unilever's key crops. Chaired by Dhaval Buch, our Chief Procurement Officer

USLP Metrics Team

A group of senior business leaders providing oversight and governance of changes to USLP metrics including scope, definitions and calculation methodologies. Chaired by Lysanne Gray, our Executive Vice President Financial Control, Risk Management, Pensions & Sustainability, who is also a member of the USLP Steering Team

Safety & Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC)

Provides independent scientific evidence and guidance to identify and manage risks relating to product safety and supply chain technology as well as environmental impacts associated with our brands, products and supply chain. SEAC’s expertise in lifecycle assessment has been used to develop our environmental metrics and approach to measuring our baseline performance in greenhouse gases, water and waste. See Our metrics

Global Code & Policy Committee

Chaired by our Chief Legal Officer, Ritva Sotamaa, and supported by our Chief Business Integrity Officer, Anny Tubbs. Oversees the implementation of the Code of Business Principles


External insights

Our strategy benefits from insights and challenge from external stakeholders on an ongoing basis through our day-to-day business operations, partnerships and broader engagement. In addition, we seek independent insights and counsel from external stakeholders, for example the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan Advisory Council, seven independent external specialists in sustainability who guide and critique the development of our strategy. In 2018 we invited six new members to join the Council:

  • Professor Val Curtis, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
  • Christiana Figueres, Mission 2020
  • Katja Iversen, Women Deliver
  • Bill McDonough, McDonough Innovation
  • Ricken Patel, Avaaz
  • Jonathon Porritt, Forum for the Future
  • Kavita Prakash Mani, WWF International.

The role of our Sustainable Sourcing Advisory Board is also to provide independent advice and judgement and to strengthen policy-making within Unilever. It comprises experts from not-for-profit organisations, impact investors, companies and academia.

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