Businesses must step off the sidelines and fight climate change

Unilever has issued a call for all companies affected by the growing costs of climate change, and in particular the food industry, to step up their commitment to tackling the issue.

Oxfam report praises Unilever’s contributions

The risk to the food industry from climate change is severe, with some analysts  predicting that the external environmental costs of climate change could exceed the earnings of the entire food industry by 2030 unless action is taken.

Our call coincides with a report released by Oxfam International arguing that the ‘Top 10’ food companies, including Unilever, should be among those leading the charge to address climate change in their own operations and supply chains, and the wider public policy arena.

The report praises Unilever’s positive contributions, saying that we are one of only two of the top 10 companies committed to reduction targets that address emissions in their supply chains, and one of only three publicly urging government and other businesses to do more to tackle climate change.

At the forefront of industry efforts

We have been at the forefront of industry efforts to tackle climate change since the mid 1990s. We were the first to establish the Unilever Sustainable Agriculture Programme to address carbon emissions from agriculture and deforestation, and the first to launch a comprehensive plan – the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan – with time-bound targets reported on annually to drive progress towards sustainable sourcing.

We are currently ahead of our target on sustainable sourcing and broader CO2 emissions from energy in our operations – down by 32% since 2008.

Improvements across our value chain

We have also sought to improve our footprint along the full breadth of the value chain, and to play a catalytic role within the industry and the wider private sector. For example:

  • Committing to sourcing 100% of agricultural raw materials sustainably by 2020, including palm, soy, and the paper and board used in our packaging

  • Working with the United Nations Environment Programme and Greenpeace to eliminate highly damaging HFCs from commercial refrigeration

  • Actively contributing to the work of HRH The Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change, which has made the case for progressive public policy to bring down emissions and accelerate the deployment of renewable energy

  • Sourcing 100% renewable electricity for sites in Europe and North America

  • Co-Chairing the Sustainability Committee of the Global Consumer Goods Forum, an industry group with specific programmes in place on deforestation and refrigeration

  • Helping create the Tropical Forest Alliance which aims to eliminate any trace of deforestation from the supply chains of consumer goods companies

Stepping up our advocacy efforts

CEO Paul Polman recently addressed the Abu Dhabi Ascent meeting, convened by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, to build momentum towards an ambitious intergovernmental deal. Paul called for joint efforts to scale up action to tackle climate change, urging politicians to lead their negotiations with “clarity, confidence and courage”.

Read Paul’s full speech

All companies must act together

We hope that Oxfam’s report will encourage other businesses to recognise the urgent need to future proof their operations, provide for the long term needs of their consumers, step off the sidelines and move into action. Only by working together can we have the required impact in the fight against climate change.

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