Sustainable sourcing

This work supports the following UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • Climate Action
  • Life on Land
  • Partnership For The Goals
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  4. Connecting consumers & sustainability

Connecting consumers & sustainability

People want high-performing, value-for-money products from ‘purpose-driven’ brands that they trust to act responsibly. By inspiring consumers to buy sustainably sourced ingredients, we can grow our business – and help drive a movement for sustainable living.

Lady browsing Unilever products

Sustainable Living brands are driving growth

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1 in 3

People are buying sustainably

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1 in 5

People would choose brands with clearer sustainability credentials on-pack

Our consumer research tells us that 1 in 3 people are already buying sustainably. What's more, a further 1 in 5 (21%) of the people surveyed said they would actively choose brands if they made their sustainability credentials clearer on their packaging and in their marketing1.

We want to build this on movement, to encourage more consumers to choose sustainable products. It will help us achieve our purpose of making sustainable living commonplace while driving growth for our brands. Every day, 2.5 billion people use a Unilever brand. And thirteen of the world’s top 50 brands are owned by Unilever, with our nearest competitor owning just five, according to Kantar’s analysis2 of fast-moving consumer goods brands which measures which brands are being bought by the most consumers, most often, around the world. So we have a big opportunity to make a difference.

The success of our Sustainable Living brands tells us that putting sustainability at the heart of our brands is inspiring our consumers and growing our sales. These are the brands that have met our benchmark of having a clear purpose that, over time, helps to tackle a social or environmental concern. The product itself must also contribute to one or more of the targets we have set in our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), which in turn contribute to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

We have 18 household-name brands in this group. They include our six biggest brands – Knorr, Dove, Dirt is Good (our laundry brands which have different names in different markets), Lipton, Rexona and Hellmann’s. Through our USLP, we're working to increase the positive social and environmental impacts of all our brands – and to increase the number that reach the Sustainable Living brand benchmark.

Increasingly we see that people want to buy from companies and brands that not only have great products at the right price, but also fit with their values.

Our experience is that brands whose purpose and products respond to that demand are delivering stronger and faster growth. Our business is investment-led, innovation-led and sustainability-led. We will continue to invest in our brands to drive their growth, popularity and consumer benefits whilst ensuring they are contributing positively to society and the environment.

Keith Weed, our Chief Marketing and Communications Officer

Inspiring consumers to choose sustainable ingredients

Consumers are becoming much more aware of the positive difference brands can make to social and environmental issues, and also to the difference they themselves can make through their everyday shopping choices. We want to help consumers choose products that make sustainable living more commonplace by giving them the information they need and inspiring them with our purpose, as well as through quality and price. And we've got a clear business incentive: in 2017 we published our latest thinking on how purpose-driven brands can drive growth in Making Purpose Pay: Inspiring Sustainable Living (PDF | 2MB).

That means using on-pack messaging, our brand websites, social media, TV and print advertising to connect consumers with the purpose behind our brands. For example, Knorr’s sustainable living purpose is to unlock flavour and goodness from everyday food from farm to fork, through sourcing 100% of ingredients sustainably to nutritious cooking. In fact, as our biggest brand, Knorr takes a lead role in communicating our commitment to sustainable agriculture.

When Knorr’s Tomato and Mascarpone soup was launched in France in 2012, it carried the label ‘Made with sustainably grown tomatoes’ – the first time we’d promoted an ingredient as sustainably sourced.

Today, Knorr’s Sustainability Partnership on-pack logo tells people that at least 50% of the product contains sustainably grown ingredients, or that 100% of the main ingredient is sustainably grown. In 2017, 98% of the top 13 vegetables and herbs in our Knorr sauces, soups and seasonings were sourced sustainably. Fifteen of our Knorr country websites shared stories of our farmers in 2017 – from growing sustainable tomatoes in Turkey and onions in France, to pumpkins in Australia.

In Brazil, Knorr’s ‘Know me better’ sustainability campaign reached an estimated 31.8 million people. And in Spain, media coverage of Knorr’s second National Sustainable Agriculture Day reached over 12.5 million people.

Lipton’s purpose is to support farmers by working to improve their livelihoods and those of their families while protecting the planet for the future. By 2015, all the tea for our Lipton tea bag blends was sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ estates, a major step for the world’s biggest tea brand. It communicates the importance of these issues to consumers in a range of ways, including through a video series – Be a Maker – celebrating Lipton’s tea pickers and farmers.

Meet the Makers

Meet the Makers: Nancy

Meet the Makers: Hillary

Meet the Makers: Aroma 3

We launched Hellmann’s Red and Green Tomato Ketchup in April 2017. It’s a good example of how Hellmann’s is putting in place sustainable business practices as it champions real food and the people who grow and harvest it. Our new ketchup uses red and green tomatoes, whereas traditionally only red would be included. But by only using red tomatoes, 10% of the total harvest was being discarded.

So we developed a new recipe to include both – which has potentially saved 2.5 million tomatoes from going to waste each year. And our consumers’ feedback tells us there’s no compromise on taste.

Find out more about how Hellmann’s did this and the action we’re taking on Reducing food loss & waste.

1 Unilever research in 2015 by Flamingo and Europanel

2Kantar Worldpanel Global Top 50, May 2017

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