UN Sustainable Development Goals

The SDGs are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a better world. Our scale and reach mean we can both contribute to, and benefit from them.

The Global Goals for Sustainable Development

An action plan for the world

Business must serve society. But today's 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 institutions continues to remain 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'.

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. They address 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 to our business, and to 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 | 2MB), 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: Unilever and the UK’s Department for International Development founded TRANSFORM to support social enterprises that meet low-income household needs in developing countries. TRANSFORM’s aim is to enable 100 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia gain access to products and services that have been shown to improve health, livelihoods, the environment or wellbeing by 2025.

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 | 5.8MB), on the business case for action on the SDGs.

2018: We agreed a partnership with UNDP specifically aimed at collaborations that will help achieve the SDGs in Bangladesh. A key element will be delivered through our Pureit brand, helping to ensure safe drinking water for Bangladeshis, in support of clean water and sanitation (SDG6).

2019: We continued our work with TRANSFORM supporting projects across a number of SDGs aligned to our business. For example, in 2019 Unilever Pakistan partnered doctHERs which is implementing a gender-inclusive, technology-enabled healthcare solution across rural Pakistan. Find out more in this brochure

Changing our business; changing how business is done

We have long recognised that the only 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). It is 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 is one that delivers growth by serving society and the planet. 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.

A unique opportunity

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).

Companies have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to embrace the SDGs as a driver of societal change and business growth. If they fail to get behind systems change and the kind of inclusive capitalism needed to achieve the SDGs, 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 we hope that many other companies will also seize the opportunities that the SDGs present. By using our resources 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.

what we depend on

Partnerships on the path 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 Sustainable Living Report, we show where the strongest connections are, and where we are making the biggest contribution.

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 promote inclusivity, support diversity, and address poverty, inequality and environmental challenges.

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

Rebecca Marmot, our Chief Sustainability Officer

UN Global Goals

We have mapped SDGs to the nine pillars of the USLP – with 14 having a strong and direct link given the breadth of our portfolio and activities. 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 the SDGs below.

† Independently assured by PwC

* Results are reported by UNICEF in accordance with its methodology and includes reach from direct and indirect initiatives over 2012-2019; and also includes Clean Toilets, Brighter Futures reach of over 38,000 children in 2018-2019.