1. Home
  2. ...
  3. Our strategy for sustainable growth
  4. UN Sustainable Development Goals

UN Sustainable Development Goals

Our scale and reach mean we’re well placed to both contribute to and benefit from the SDGs.

The Global Goals for Sustainable Development

Rebooting capitalism

Business must serve society. But today, our current form of capitalism is leaving too many people behind. The gap between the haves and the have-nots is rising, the planet is under severe strain, and trust in business is at an all-time low.

Many are arguing that a more inclusive form of capitalism is sorely needed.

We agree. We believe that it is not possible to achieve long-term business success in a world which contains poverty, hunger and climate change. But can business really help drive a reboot of the current system? At Unilever, we think the answer is 'yes'.

An action plan for the world

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), launched by the United Nations in 2015, are an excellent vehicle for driving this change. They represent an action plan for the planet and society to thrive by 2030 – addressing poverty, hunger and climate change, among other issues central to human progress and sustainable development, such as gender equality, clean water and sanitation, and responsible consumption and production.


Fact Card Business Value graphic

There from the start, committed to the end

We contributed to the development of the SDGs, recognising their strategic importance both to our business and the world – and we're committed to helping achieve them.

  • 2012: Our former CEO, Paul Polman, served on the UN’s High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, seeking to ensure that the voice of business was included.
  • 2014: Unilever co-ordinated the development of a Post-2015 Business Manifesto (PDF | 3MB), endorsed by more than 20 leading international companies, laying out a vision for strengthening the ability of business to substantially help achieve the SDGs.
  • 2015: The UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • 2016: Former CEO Paul Polman began serving on the UN Secretary-General’s Advocacy Group for the Global Goals.
  • 2017: Unilever co-founded the Business & Sustainable Development Commission in 2016, culminating in the launch of a seminal report in 2017, Better Business, Better World (PDF | 6MB), on the business case for action on the SDGs.

A new way of doing business

We have long recognised that the only acceptable business model for Unilever is one in which the planet and society thrive. That’s why in 2010, well before the SDGs came into being, we launched the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) – our blueprint for sustainable growth which responds to the challenges and opportunities of an increasingly resource-constrained and unequal world.

Our vision for a new way of doing business – one that delivers growth by serving society and the planet – is strongly aligned with the SDGs. By inspiring every brand, in every country, to make a positive social impact and reduce our environmental footprint, the USLP harnesses our scale and influence to help bring about a better world.

Our value chain

The size of the prize

This isn’t capitalism with compromise. Unilever is a company, not a charity. By using our resources as a business to address issues such as nutrition, sanitation, hygiene, and climate change, we are delivering short-term and long-term benefits for shareholders as well as society.

We're convinced that achieving the SDGs will be good for the global economy, and for business in general. The opportunities that this transformation creates will be enormous – market opportunities of up to US$12 trillion a year, and up to 380 million new jobs by 2030, according to the Business & Sustainable Development Commission (PDF | 6MB).

An unstoppable force

Companies have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to embrace the SDGs as a driver of business growth. If they fail to get behind systems change and the kind of inclusive capitalism laid out by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the costs and uncertainty of doing business will swell. On the other hand, if a critical mass of companies joins the movement for system change, it will create an unstoppable force.

We don’t pretend it will be easy. Change never is. Nor do we claim to have arrived there yet. But we are on the journey and hope that many other companies will also seize the opportunities that the SDGs present.

Business cannot thrive in the long term unless the world makes progress towards the SDGs. For us, that means applying an SDG lens to every aspect of strategy: appointing the right leaders, innovating to create sustainable solutions, marketing products and services that inspire consumers to make sustainable choices, and using the goals to guide leadership development and women’s empowerment at every level.

Paul Polman, former CEO

The pathway to 2030

To achieve the goals, and benefit from them, we know the transformation has to begin with ourselves. The USLP is driving change within our business. Many of the goals of the USLP are closely related to the SDGs – and so action on the USLP contributes to the SDGs. In our latest Sustainable Living Report we have shown where the strongest connections are, and where we are making the biggest contribution. It’s a start – and we aim to move to more in-depth reporting on SDGs in the future.

At the same time, we know that the actions of a single business acting alone will not create the systemic change that's needed to achieve the vision set out by the SDGs. So, alongside our USLP, we're working on global and local partnerships that aim to transform current business models to address poverty, inequality and environmental challenges.

Why partnership will unlock progress towards the SDGs

Rebecca Marmot

Rebecca Marmot, Global Vice President, Advocacy and Partnerships, explains how SDG17 is the key that will unlock progress for all other SDGs.

“Transformational change requires transformational partnerships. That means new ways of doing business – not just for us, but for everyone who wants to see the vision of the SDGs become a reality.

The SDGs are not 17 individual goals. They are a universal agenda with 17 inter-connected goals. Progress in one goal can both depend on and unlock progress in another – and interconnected goals require an interconnected approach.

Business, governments and civil society all have a role to play, through innovative partnerships, with new types of funding – multi-sector, multi-stakeholder, blending public and private. There's a good reason why partnerships for the goals are themselves an SDG – Goal 17.

We're already working with a wide range of partners, including NGOs, governments and other businesses, and exploring innovative approaches that drive progress towards the SDGs. For example, TRANSFORM, our partnership with the UK government's DFID, brings private sector creativity and a public–private finance model to bear on persistent developmental challenges. By aiming to enable 100 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia to gain access to products and services that have been shown to improve health, livelihoods, the environment or wellbeing, it addresses a wide range of SDGs.

These interconnections can be found throughout our work. For instance, empowering women in our value chain by challenging gender norms and unlocking women's personal and economic potential is a key strategic priority for us. Our efforts directly address gender equality (SDG5), as well as other SDGs such as alleviating poverty (SDG1) and hunger (SDG2), good health and wellbeing (SDG3), and decent work and economic growth (SDG8).

We use the power of our brands to communicate about the issues the SDGs are tackling, such as Domestos on ending open defecation, Pureit on access to clean drinking water and Lifebuoy on the importance of handwashing to combat disease and diarrhoea. These brands collectively address water, sanitation and hygiene (SDG6).

Of course, creating system-level change can be challenging – but we're seeing real progress, and our business is growing as a result. Building new connections that enable us to contribute to transformation through advocacy and implementation will continue to be key to success – for our business and for the SDGs.”

Making a real impact, where it matters

The SDGs represent an ambitious vision. And ensuring that vision is translated to the streets, businesses and fields where people spend their daily lives, means there is a huge implementation job to be done. Of course, while the SDGs are a multi-stakeholder agenda, the targets were designed with nation states and supra-national bodies in mind. Much of that work must be led by governments and agencies such as the UN.

But business has a critical role to play too. As countries around the world seek to align their policies with the SDGs, business needs to be part of the conversation and part of the solution.

In it together: how we aim to increase our positive impact in Bangladesh

Tanzeen Ferdous

Tanzeen Ferdous, Head of Home Care and Foods and Refreshment, Unilever Bangladesh, describes the opportunity for greater impact when private, public and non-governmental agencies all align to achieve the SDGs.

“When it comes to making progress against the SDGs, there are few countries in the world that can match Bangladesh. Of course, Bangladeshis still face many, many challenges. But this is the birthplace of some of the world's best-known NGOs, who have been key to combating poverty and unlocking potential. At the same time, the government's five-year economic plan is specifically aligned with, and tracked against, the SDGs.

Then there is the private sector – including Unilever. We have a long history of achieving positive social impact in Bangladesh, which gives us a real platform to make a difference.

Programmes led by brands such as Rin, Vaseline, Knorr, Pepsodent, and Lifebuoy have already helped to improve the health and wellbeing of Bangladeshis for many years.

What is clear is that there are huge opportunities to achieve even greater impact – by aligning these activities directly with the SDGs, and with other stakeholders. For example, in February 2018, we agreed a partnership with UNDP specifically aimed at collaborations that will help achieve the SDGs – in particular, helping to ensure safe drinking water for Bangladeshis, in support of clean water and sanitation (SDG6), through our Pureit brand.

Do we want to do more, and align more closely with the public and third sector efforts? Yes – and there’s undoubtedly more work to do to bring them together. But as the UNDP partnership shows, businesses such as ours have a real role to play in bringing together the kind of multi-stakeholder approaches that are needed to achieve the SDGs.”

The difference we're making

Unilever is one of the world’s leading consumer goods companies, making and selling around 400 brands. Every day, 2.5 billion people use our products in more than 190 countries. Given our scale and reach, we are making progress across many of the SDGs through our USLP.

In 2017, we mapped the SDGs to the nine pillars of the USLP – with 14 having a strong and direct link. Further information on how we are taking action on these SDGs can be found throughout our Sustainable Living Report. For completeness, we have outlined our contribution to all SDGs below.

UN Global Goals

SDG1: No poverty

No Poverty

While the global poverty rate has halved since 2000, 800 million people worldwide continue to live below the international poverty line of $1.90 a day. Building the incomes and economic resilience of people living in extreme poverty will underpin the success of all the SDGs – and play a key part in unlocking the estimated $12 trillion in market opportunities (PDF - 5.8MB) that entails. We know that our future success relies on growing economies and a widening consumer base. There is simply no business case for the alternative: enduring poverty.

Our products are sold in more than 190 countries, generating income and employment for retailers and distributors who bring our brands to consumers. We have an opportunity to increase millions of people's economic opportunities and enhance their livelihoods while strengthening our own sales and supply networks.

Our USLP target is to positively impact the lives of 5.5 million people by improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers who supply major brands such as Lipton, Wall's, Magnum and Ben & Jerry's, improving the incomes of small-scale retailers and increasing the participation of young entrepreneurs in our value chain.

Inclusive distribution models – including Shakti in India and our retailer training programmes such as Kabisig in the Philippines – are designed to unlock potential by enabling women, in particular, to boost their incomes while increasing the reach of our sales networks and supporting our growth.

At the same time, we're committed to ensuring our employees receive a living wage and all workers in our supply chain are paid a fair wage (PDF | 5MB).

SDG2: Zero hunger

Zero Hunger

Around 800 million people are undernourished globally and an estimated 155 million children under five years old are stunted. Hunger at these levels, in a world where one-third of food is never eaten, is a humanitarian and economic crisis – malnutrition has lasting effects on the development of individuals and societies.

Our vision is of Sustainable Nutrition – foods and refreshment that taste good, feel good and are a force for good. Through brand programmes such as Knorr's partnerships with the World Food Programme and others, we're aiming to provide more than 200 billion servings – with at least one of the five key micronutrients – by 2022. And we're committed to doubling the proportion of our portfolio that meets the Highest Nutritional Standards, from 30% to 60%, based on globally recognised dietary guidelines – we'd reached 39% by 2017.

But we believe we can make an even bigger contribution to achieve Sustainable Nutrition for all when we work with others to help transform the global food system. So, we’re working with organisations such as the World Economic Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture and the SDG2 Advocacy Hub, to build public awareness and advocate food system reform. We also play a leading role in the Food Reform for Sustainability and Health (FReSH) Coalition and the Food and Land Use Coalition.

Sustainable Nutrition means minimising food waste from farm to fork. We’ve committed to halving food waste by 2025 and have signed a commitment to switch to a standardised system of food expiry dates by 2020.

SDG3: Good health and well-being

Good health and wellbeing

Despite major advances in recent decades, millions of people die each year from preventable causes. These deaths often occur disproportionately in the world's developing regions. The lack of safe water, sanitation and hygiene, for example, contributes to the deaths of more than 1.4 million children under five each year from diarrhoea and pneumonia (see also SDG6).

At the same time, ill-health, whether mental or physical, can prevent individuals reaching their full potential, with a knock-on effect on their communities and economies.

Many of our best-known brands – including Lifebuoy, Domestos and Signal – are driving our USLP commitment to help more than 1 billion people take action to improve their health and wellbeing, reaching over 600 million people by 2017. Lifebuoy's handwashing campaign alone aims to change the hygiene behaviour of 1 billion consumers across Asia, Africa and Latin America. Domestos is working to improve access to sanitation through a combination of partnerships, market-based models and advocacy. And Signal/Pepsodent is promoting oral health, reaching nearly 78 million people by 2017 to encourage better brushing habits.

Our safety, health and wellbeing programmes are helping to improve the health of our employees and those we work with. This includes a focus on tackling HIV/AIDS in our workplaces in Africa, where the incidence of HIV at our sites is now below the average and the mortality rate has dropped by up to 50%.

SDG4: Quality education

Quality Education

Many of the targets of SDG4 focus on ensuring that people receive equal access to education – throughout their lives. This means eliminating gender disparities in education, among other barriers, and providing people with skills and training that contribute to sustainable development.

Using education to remove the barriers faced by people in their daily lives plays a huge role in the USLP – and we see it as a critical element in our future growth. Empowering women, in particular, is key to our future prosperity and the achievement of the SDGs.

We're committed to enhancing access to training and skills for women throughout our value chain – and by 2017, we had enabled around 1.2 million women to access initiatives aiming to develop their skills. Brands including Radiant, Sunsilk, TRESemmé and Dove are playing a vital role – giving women confidence, skills and entrepreneurial training through a range of programmes. Our programmes to support small-scale retailers with training and skills – which had reached 1.6 million people by 2017 – include Shakti and Kabisig, which focus on unlocking the potential of women.

At the same time, as another part of building a more inclusive business, we have enabled over 700,000 smallholder farmers, many of whom are women, to access initiatives aiming to improve their agricultural practices. For example, our tea business in Kenya alone has helped around 86,000 lead farmers – including around 42,000 women – improve their skills at Farmer Field Schools.

SDG5: Gender equality

Gender Equality

According to McKinsey, as much as $28 trillion could be added to the global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. However, based on current trends, the World Economic Forum predicts that it will take 217 years for the workplace gender gap to close. Addressing gender equality is a moral and economic imperative. For Unilever, gender equality delivers tangible business benefits by widening the pool of experience and expertise across our supply chain and in our workforce. Most of the people who buy our products are women, making this critical to our future growth.

Our brands are seizing the opportunity through education (see also SDG4) and programmes creating opportunities for women. Dove, one of Unilever’s biggest brands which grew at 6% in 2017, has reached around 29 million young people since 2004 through its body confidence and self-esteem educational programmes. As well as raising awareness about body confidence, our data reveals that awareness of the programmes, such as the Dove Self-Esteem Project, correlates with higher intent to purchase our products.

We are also taking action within our business on gender equality. Forty-seven per cent of our management are now women and our Framework for Fair Compensation (PDF | 449KB) is helping to ensure equal pay for equal work.

Across our distribution network and supply chain, we are supporting small-scale retailers and smallholder farmers – many of whom are women – to extend our reach and secure supplies of vital agricultural raw materials, through programmes such as Shakti and Kabisig Summits which are designed to unlock potential by enabling women to boost their incomes.

SDG6: Clean water and sanitation

Clean Water and Sanitation

Nearly a billion people defecate in the open and around 2.5 billion people live without adequate sanitation. Addressing water, sanitation and hygiene needs is a significant opportunity for Unilever. Several of our brands directly address these needs through innovative partnerships which drive growth and deliver positive impact at scale.

Domestos, which grew 10% in 2017, has committed to help 25 million people gain improved access to a toilet. Through our partnership with UNICEF, over 10 million people between 2012 and 2016 gained access to a toilet through behaviour-change interventions and capacity-building initiatives – contributing positively to consumer sentiment around the brand.

Pureit, our water purification business, is another brand that is well positioned to address clean water needs in India. It has provided 96 billion litres of safe drinking water since 2005 through the sale of water purifiers, well on its way towards its ambition of providing 150 billion litres by 2020.

Lifebuoy is the world’s number one antibacterial soap, sold in nearly 60 countries, which grew 6% in 2017. It has championed the message of better health through hygiene for well over a century. Since 2010, its programme has reached over 426 million people through schools, health clinics and community outreach – boosting sales in countries with high rates of diarrhoea-related child deaths, such as India.

SDG7: Affordable and clean energy

Affordable Clean Energy

If we don't tackle climate change, economic growth and progress against all the SDGs will be severely hampered. Achieving SDG7 is, in part, about transitioning to a low-carbon economy – and we want our business to play a leading role.

That's why, in 2015, we set ourselves the bold ambition of becoming carbon positive by 2030. Since then, we’ve been making real progress, continuing our investments in energy efficiency and increasing our use of renewable energy across our factory network.

In 2017, we extended the scope of our target from manufacturing sites only to all operations including distribution centres, offices, R&D laboratories and data centres. Sourcing our energy from 100% renewable sources by 2030 – a key element of our carbon positive ambition – will make us a more competitive business and help create a better future where energy is clean, reliable and affordable for all. In 2017, we met a third of our global energy needs from renewable sources.

We are also looking at ways to directly support the generation of more renewable energy than we consume, by making the surplus available to the markets and communities where we operate. At the same time, we continue to work on using less energy per tonne of production. Since 2008, we've reduced energy from our operations by over a quarter per tonne of production.

SDG8: Decent work and economic growth

Decent work and economic growth

We want to build on the value we already create and share economically – including the €5.4 billion we pay in wages, the €34 billion we spend annually on goods and services, and the €3.9 billion we pay in tax.

One of the most obvious ways a global business, such as Unilever, can contribute to the SDGs is by helping to stimulate economic growth, by growing our own business. The USLP – which is at the heart of our business model – is explicitly designed to achieve sustainable growth.

As a fundamental principle, growth must not come at the expense of the planet or people – especially vulnerable workers. There are still between 20–40 million people working in forms of modern slavery worldwide – and over 150 million children working when they should be in education. This is unacceptable, as are any abuses of human rights.

We aim to use our influence over our own supply chains which connect us to millions of people, to advance and promote human rights wherever we operate. Our commitment to Fairness in the workplace is guided by the principle that business can only flourish in societies in which human rights are respected, advanced and upheld. Our Human Rights Report (PDF | 10MB) details our progress.

SDG9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure

Industry innovation and infrastructure

Low-carbon technologies, circular approaches and breakthrough business models can support enterprise and transform industries, especially in the developing world. To succeed, we must nurture innovative technologies and new ways of doing business.

We're already exploring new business models that we believe have the potential to transform small-scale retail – using digital technology and the power of partnership to reach billions of consumers through innovative distribution systems, many of which provide new entrepreneurial opportunities for women. Forging stronger connections with smallholder farmers, through digital platforms such as mFarmer, is key to our ambition of transforming the global food system.

As a manufacturer, of course, we contribute to this goal in other ways too. Our ambition to become carbon positive by 2030, for example, means we're investing in clean technologies, increasing our energy efficiency and switching to renewable energy sources. Since we achieved our target of sending zero non-hazardous waste to landfill from our factories in 2014, we've gone further. In January 2017, we committed to ensuring that 100% of our plastic packaging will be designed to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, a step towards a more circular plastic economy.

At the same time, our business is fuelled by innovation, driven by more than 6,000 Unilever R&D professionals. We invest around €900 million in R&D each year, and we hold a portfolio of more than 20,000 patents and patent applications.

SDG10: Reduced inequalities

Reduced inequalities

The gap between the haves and the have-nots is already too great – and, in many places, it is growing, as wealth and opportunity are shared inequitably. This is simply not fair or sustainable. The system has to change. The USLP commits us to new ways of business that will contribute to equitable growth, a process that starts in our own workplace.

Supported by our policies and Code of Business Principles and Code Policies (PDF | 5MB) that prohibit discrimination, our Framework for Fair Compensation (PDF | 449KB) is designed to achieve equality of opportunity for all employees, and provide fair and liveable compensation. And through our Responsible Sourcing Policy (PDF | 5MB), we extend our principles to our suppliers.

We know that policies, while critical, are not enough in themselves. Tackling inequalities means tackling the attitudes and stereotypes that sustain them – as we're doing through our work to challenge harmful gender norms throughout our value chain. That can take the form of brand-led initiatives. Our Surf brand, for example, began a unique three-year partnership with Oxfam in 2017 that aims to expand choices for women and girls by recognising, reducing and redistributing the amount of time they spend on unpaid care work.

It also includes the way products are marketed. Our Unstereotype campaign, launched in 2016, challenged every one of our global brands to move away from unhelpful stereotypes in its advertising. By 2017, we'd helped build the Unstereotype Alliance, a partnership with UN Women and other businesses aimed at eliminating gender stereotypes from advertising altogether.

SDG11: Sustainable cities and communities

Sustainable cities and communities

Around 5 billion people are expected to live in cities by 2030. The rapid growth of cities has already brought enormous challenges, including slums, increased air pollution and inadequate sanitation. So what can we, as a consumer goods business, do to make those cities better places to live?

Part of the answer lies with our health and hygiene brands – household names such as Lifebuoy, Domestos and Signal – which produce everyday products such as soaps, toilet cleaners and toothpastes that help prevent diseases prevalent in cities lacking basic services. Our USLP commitment is to help 1 billion people improve their health and hygiene – and by 2017, we'd reached over 600 million people.

We can also make sure that our activities don't have a negative impact on the urban environment. We're committed, for example, to halving the waste associated with the disposal of our products by 2020 and within our own operations, we have already achieved zero waste to landfill in our global factory network. Where there is limited infrastructure for recycling waste, we have a number of programmes in place to work with consumers, retailers, and municipal authorities – such as our Community Waste Bank Programme in Indonesia.

And at our Suvidha Community Hygiene Centre in India (PDF | 2MB), located in one of Mumbai’s many slums, we bring together a range of approaches to tackling hygiene, lack of laundry facilities and safe drinking water, and poor sanitation – demonstrating the kind of holistic thinking needed to make city life better.

SDG12: Responsible consumption and production

Responsible consumption and production

As a consumer goods company, we’re acutely aware of the causes and consequences of the ‘take-make-dispose’ model of consumption. And we want to change it.

The USLP is anchored on the need to decouple our business growth from our environmental impact – including how our products are made and used.

An essential part of this is using resources more efficiently during the making of our products – and we have set ourselves targets to significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, water use and waste associated with manufacturing. Since 2008, we have cut CO2 from energy by 47%, water abstraction by 39% and total waste disposed by 98% per tonne of production.

While our efforts to use resources more efficiently in production are important, our biggest impacts come through the use of our products. That’s why we have committed to ensure 100% of our plastic packaging will be designed to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, leading the way towards a more circular plastics economy (see also SDG14). We are also working to reduce the water and GHG impacts of products through innovations such as SmartFoam technology which reduces water use when rinsing clothes.

These changes are necessary – and they are also helping to drive business growth, because they connect with consumers. Unilever’s ‘Making Purpose Pay’ research shows that over 50% of consumers want to choose brands that are more sustainable, and that demand for sustainable products cuts across demographic and socio-economic groups.

SDG13: Climate action

Climate action

Few now seriously challenge the need for urgent action on climate change – from greening the grid to eliminating deforestation. Thanks to the Paris Agreement, nearly 200 countries are pressing ahead with low-carbon reforms, helping to open up around $23 trillion in opportunities for climate-smart investments by 2030. Investing to eliminate carbon emissions from our operations is the smart choice for Unilever, reducing costs and risk. For example, our eco-efficiency savings have avoided cumulative energy costs of over €490 million since 2008.

We have already increased the amount of energy purchased from renewable sources and aim to eliminate coal from our energy mix by 2020 – with an ambition to become carbon positive by 2030, making the surplus energy available to the markets and communities where we operate.

Unilever has long recognised the interdependency of climate and forests. We helped lead the Consumer Goods Forum towards a zero-deforestation commitment across four commodities, including palm oil. We are tackling deforestation in the palm oil industry through our own sustainable palm oil commitment and partnerships. We have committed to invest up to $25 million between 2018 and 2022 to support sustainable commodity projects via the &Green fund. Our investment will focus on smallholder palm oil farmers in Indonesia, thereby securing the supply of sustainable palm oil.

In support of enhanced disclosure of climate risk, Unilever has committed to implement the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure recommendations, including the impact of 2°C and 4°C global warming scenarios.

SDG14: Life below water

Life below water

An estimated 100 million marine animals die each year due to discarded plastic – and it is estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans.

The root causes of ocean plastic are complex, but it is clear that urgent action is needed on multiple fronts. One area of direct concern for Unilever is the fact that just 14% of the plastic packaging used globally makes its way to recycling plants, a third is left in fragile ecosystems and 40% ends up in landfill.

We want to lead the way towards a more circular plastics economy – one which moves away from the linear ‘take-make-dispose’ model of consumption, to one in which resources are reused and recycled in a closed loop. As part of the systemic change this transition will require, in 2017 we committed to ensuring that 100% of our plastic packaging will be designed to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

This begins by making it technically possible for all our plastic packaging to be reused or recycled – but it also means demonstrating that there are established, proven examples of it being commercially viable for plastics re-processors to recycle the material. Our plastic packaging commitment builds on our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan target of increasing the recycled plastic content in our packaging to 25% by 2025.

SDG15: Life on land

Life on land

Globally, biodiversity is in decline. According to the IUCN Red List, more than 23,000 species are threatened with extinction, including 41% of amphibians, 34% of conifers, 25% of mammals and 13% of birds. Deforestation is a particular threat, as forests support 80% of terrestrial biodiversity, and around 1.6 billion people worldwide depend on them for food, medicines, fuel, shelter, jobs and livelihoods.

As one of the world’s largest users of agricultural raw materials including tea, vegetables and vegetable oils such as palm and soy, we rely on the ecosystems in which crops are grown – and on the prosperity of communities who are also reliant on these ecosystems. So, the business case for protecting biodiversity is quite simple: without biodiversity, there is no business. Yet agriculture is one of the biggest drivers of deforestation. That means we need to change the way agriculture works.

Protecting biodiversity is central to our Sustainable Agriculture Programme, which drives our work with suppliers and farmers, and is at the heart of our USLP commitment to source our agricultural raw materials sustainably. At the same time, we've joined others in our industry in a commitment to zero net deforestation associated with four commodities – palm oil, soy, paper and board, and beef – no later than 2020. We have extended this commitment to our tea businesses and supply chains.

Our particular focus is on palm oil sourcing, where we have the scale to make a difference – and where dedicated work with suppliers and smallholders is at the heart of our commitment to source 100% physically certified palm oil for our core volumes by 2019.

SDG16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

Peace justice and strong institutions

Peaceful and just societies are of course good for the people who live in them – and they are also good for business, which flourishes when those around it succeed. We have a shared responsibility to contribute to building and maintaining inclusive, sustainable societies where human rights and the rule of law are respected, and to act with integrity and within the law at all times, in accordance with our principles and values.

We aim to have a positive influence across our value chain, working with suppliers, distributors and all third parties to raise the bar on issues such as human rights, anti-bribery and corruption. Our commitment to advancing human rights through our business is embedded in our USLP, supported by our transparent approach to reporting through our Sustainable Living Report and our Human Rights Report (PDF | 10MB).

But we believe we have a further responsibility – to show leadership where systemic change is needed. In many parts of the world, for example, inequality is widening, labour rights worsening, and bribery and corruption still all too common. Globally there is an increasingly vulnerable migrant workforce, potentially resulting in human trafficking and forced labour. We have a clear duty to address these issues through partnership.

SDG17: Partnerships for the goals

Partnerships for the goals

The social and environmental change required to meet the SDGs cannot be addressed by one business acting alone. Zero hunger, zero poverty, climate action, eradicating modern slavery – these are transformational goals, and they require transformational change, brought about by a concerted effort. Business, governments and civil society all have a role to play.

We’re involved in a wide range of partnerships, which often include new types of funding and new ways of working, whether with fellow companies or with other agencies. The Consumer Goods Forum’s sector-wide commitment to zero net deforestation by 2020, and the Unstereotype Alliance, a partnership with UN Women and other businesses aimed at eliminating gender stereotypes from advertising, are good examples of what’s possible.

Our global partnerships with NGOs and others address issues ranging from water and sanitation, to sustainable sourcing, to improving health and nutrition. Many harness the strength of our brands – such as the Vaseline® Healing Project, a partnership with NGO Direct Relief which aims to help heal the skin of 5 million people by 2020.

But we want to go much further – both in the impact of our partnerships, and in their alignment with the SDGs. A good example is TRANSFORM, our partnership with the UK government's DFID, which uses a public–private finance model to address persistent developmental challenges and aims to enable 100 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia to gain access to products and services that have been shown to improve health, livelihoods, the environment or wellbeing.

Back to top


We're always looking to connect with those who share an interest in a sustainable future.


Get in touch with Unilever PLC and specialist teams in our headquarters, or find contacts around the world.

Contact us