Global climate action
Climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face, as a society and as a business.
To tackle climate change we need transformational change
Tackling climate change requires transformational changes to the broader systems in which we operate. For this we need strong government policy that creates the right context for change and business action. It’s critical that organisations from all sectors work in collaboration, partnering on projects and initiatives to take action.
We’re advocating for policies that advance the goal of the Paris Agreement. That is, limiting global temperature rises to no more than 2 degrees, and ideally 1.5 degrees, by the end of the century. We’re doing this through ambitious targets within our own operations and working in partnership with others to scale up action around the world through multiple private sector groups and coalitions.
Nothing is more powerful than demonstrating to governments that accelerated progress in decarbonising the economy is actually possible. That is why in the run up to COP21, we announced that we will become carbon positive in our operations by 2030.
We take part in events such as the United Nations intergovernmental climate summits and when possible, advocate directly to heads of state, ministers and government organisations on the importance of climate action. We support policies that accelerate change towards a low carbon economy, drive growth and reduce risk.
We work with many other businesses, international institutions and partners. In 2017 our principle partners included:
We Mean Business
We support the advocacy work of the We Mean Business, a coalition of business groups including the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), BSR, Ceres, B-Team, HRH The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group, CDP, The Climate Group and supported by other networks. As a Corporate Advisory Group member of We Mean Business, we are helping to engage a record number of businesses around the world in committing to take action on climate change.
World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)
The WBCSD, a CEO-led organisation of nearly 200 companies committed to sustainable business. We’re taking part in the WBCSD’s Low Carbon Technology Partnership Initiatives (LCTPi) to find business solutions to climate change. If implemented, the LCTPi could contribute 65% of the emissions reductions needed by 2030.
One such project is LCTPi REScale group looking at how to scale the use of renewable energy. In 2016 we supported the development of a WBCSD guide to help businesses achieve 100% renewable energy sourcing through Purchase Power Agreements. In 2017, we participated in the annual LCTPi meeting hosted by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) to build shared understanding of how different energy market structures can support accelerated roll out of renewable energy technologies.
United Nations Global Compact (UNGC)
We are a member of the UNGC’s Caring for Climate Campaign and we have implemented the UNGC’s Business Leadership Criteria on Carbon Pricing. We believe that carbon pricing is a fundamental part of the global response to climate change, and without it, the world is unlikely to meet its GHG reduction targets. We also support the UNGC’s Guide to Responsible Engagement in Climate Policy, which calls for companies and trade associations to ensure their lobbying aligns with their public position on climate change.
Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition (CPLC)
We are a member of The Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, which is hosted by the World Bank. The CPLC brings together leaders from government, the private sector and civil society to share experience with implementing carbon pricing and promote effective carbon pricing systems and policies. In early 2018 we hosted a CPLC webinar in which we shared our own approach to internal carbon pricing.
Our view on carbon pricing
A low carbon economy will be better for consumers, businesses, supply chains and society – but getting there is challenging. Strong policy measures and carbon pricing – applying a cost to each tonne of carbon emitted, one of the most effective ways to encourage investment in low carbon solutions - are needed to accelerate the transition. The removal of fossil fuel subsidies is also essential, as subsidies act as negative carbon prices.
Since July 2016, we’ve set our own internal price on carbon: €30 per tonne emitted, increasing to €40 per tonne in 2018. In 2017, we piloted reducing capital expenditure budgets of each of our global business unit’s CO2 emissions in the previous year. The money saved has created an internal clean technology fund to finance carbon-reducing capital expenditure proposals at our sites. This approach supports our business strategy to become carbon positive in our operations by 2030.
Externally, we have consistently advocated in favour of carbon pricing policies. We worked with the World Bank Group to launch the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition in 2016, to advance carbon pricing and the removal of fossil fuel subsidies, and support the research and advocacy agenda of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, which is co-Chaired by Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman.
The pricing of carbon, as well as the disclosure by companies of climate related risks, is necessary to ensure the efficient functioning of markets. Internal carbon pricing can help businesses future proof themselves in a rapidly changing external context.
World Economic Forum (WEF)
The WEF is an international institution committed to improving the state of the world through public-private cooperation. Our CEO, Paul Polman, is a member of WEF’s Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, which advocates ambitious action on climate change. The group meets annually in Davos to collaborate to drive action on climate change in their own businesses and networks. In 2017 the group developed a report highlighting collaborative action being taken on climate change, which was launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2018.
The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate
In 2017 Our CEO Paul Polman took over as a co-chair of The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, after serving as a member since its inception in 2014. The Global Commission aims to analyse and communicate the economic benefits and costs of climate action and inaction. It has published extensive research showing that an accelerated transition to a low carbon world can improve the quality of economic growth, diffusing some of the surrounding myths.
We’re a member of RE100, a campaign to encourage organisations to set goals to be powered by 100% renewable energy. We have engaged by supporting the organisation’s campaigns and participating in policy focused events in the UK and Brussels.
Powering Past Coal Alliance
Led by the governments of Canada and the UK, the Powering Past Coal Alliance brings together countries and companies committed to an accelerated phase out of coal as a fuel source in the energy mix. Unilever was the first company to join the coalition, formally launched at COP23 in Bonn and subsequently relaunched at the One Planet Summit in Paris on 12 December 2017.
The B Team, founded and led by global business and civil society leaders, aims to catalyse a better way of doing business for the well-being of people and the planet by adopting a Plan B for business. In November 2015, we were one of 22 signatories of the B-Team letter sent to global Heads of State, urging world leaders to set a long-term goal for net zero emissions by 2050. This goal is broadly aligned with the ambition to limit global temperatures to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, cited in the Paris Agreement.
In 2016, the B-Team advocated for corporate boards to play a bigger role in understanding the risks of climate change and developed a guide to support ‘Climate Competent Boards’. And in January 2018, the B Team issued a progress report for the Net Zero by 2050 Campaign which contains more information.
HRH The Prince of Wales' Corporate Leaders Group
We are members of the HRH The Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders Group that advocates climate change solutions with policymakers and businesses at the EU level and within EU member states.
Climate action in the US
In late 2016, the US Administration announced the intention of the US to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. Despite this change in position, we remain committed to advocating for legislation to address the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the US and elsewhere.
We engage directly with the Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP), a project led by the US NGO Ceres. BICEP advocates for meaningful energy and climate legislation that will enable a rapid transition to a low carbon economy. Through lobby days and media engagement, we are proud to continue our support for policies necessary to limit the effects of climate change.
As a proud supporter of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, we were one of the first companies to sign the We Are Still In pledge - a public proclamation in coordination with other businesses, NGOs and state and local leaders in the US, showing we are committed to doing our part to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
We are also a founding member of the Climate Leadership Council, The Climate Leadership Council is an international policy institute founded in collaboration with a broad cross section of business, opinion and environmental leaders to promote a carbon dividends framework as a cost-effective, equitable and politically-viable climate solution in the US. At the state and local level, in partnership with other forward-thinking companies like Google, Facebook, Mars and Nestle, we regularly advocate (PDF | 700KB) for renewable portfolio standards (RPS) and other policies that “green the grid” in support of our carbon positive by 2030 ambition.
We will also play prominent a role in the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit chaired by California Governor Jerry Brown and Michael Bloomberg. The Summit will bring together leaders from state and local governments, business, and citizens from around the world, to demonstrate how the tide has turned in the race against climate change, showcase climate action taking place around the world, and inspire deeper commitments from each other and from national governments — in support of the Paris Agreement.
Main photo by Mauricio Jimenez, North America.