Unilever Sustainable Living Plan helping to drive growth

Our commitment to put sustainable and equitable growth at the heart of our business model is helping to drive increased sales while reducing costs and risks, according to the second Unilever Sustainable Living Plan Progress Report.

A virtuous circle of growth

Our business model

Our latest sustainability progress report.

Brands that have made sustainability central to their brand proposition or product innovation have increased sales during 2012.

  • Lifebuoy soap, which has increased its handwashing education programmes, has seen double digit growth in each of the last three years;

  • Dry shampoos, such as TRESemme and Dove, which result in 90% less greenhouse gas emissions compared to washing hair in heated water, grew by 20% in 2012;

  • Calorie-controlled Max and Paddle Pop children’s ice creams grew high double digit in 2012.

We are also accelerating the integration of sustainability into the heart of many of our biggest brands.

For example Dove, our largest personal care brand with sales of over €3 billion, redesigned its self esteem programme for young people in 2012.

Our biggest brand, Knorr, launched its first product with a ‘sustainably grown’ label on pack, with more to come.

At the same time, eco-efficiencies in our factories from reducing energy, water, materials and waste have enabled us to take a total of €300 million out of the system since 2008.

We have also reduced risk at a time of volatility in food commodity prices by increasing our purchases of agricultural raw materials from sustainable sources from 14% in 2010 to over a third (36%) in 2012.

Unilever CEO Paul Polman says: “Sustainability is contributing to our virtuous circle of growth. The more our products meet social needs and help people live sustainably, the more popular our brands become and the more we grow.

“And the more efficient we are at managing resources such as energy and raw materials, the more we lower our costs and reduce the risks to our business and the more we are able to invest in sustainable innovation and brands.”

Unilever Sustainable Living Plan 2nd year progress

We are making solid progress towards our 2020 targets of helping more than 1 billion people to improve their health and wellbeing; sourcing 100% of our agricultural raw materials sustainably; and halving the environmental footprint of our products across the value chain.

We have reached 224 million people with programmes to reduce diarrhoeal disease through handwashing with soap, providing safe drinking water, promoting oral health and improving young people’s self-esteem. Lifebuoy soap reached 71 million people in 16 countries in 2012 – five times as many people as in 2010.

We now buy over a third of our agricultural raw materials (36%) from sustainable sources and have trained 450,000 tea farmers in sustainable practices, of whom 300,000 have achieved Rainforest Alliance certification.

Between 2008-2012, we reduced greenhouse gas emissions from energy in manufacturing by nearly a third and halved manufacturing waste. Over half of our 252 manufacturing sites around the world now send no non-hazardous waste to landfill, with all sites set to follow suit by 2015.

However, our manufacturing impacts account for only 4% of the greenhouse gas footprint of our products across the value chain.

The majority of our product footprint comes from the sourcing of raw material (25%) and the way consumers cook, clean and wash with our products (68%).

One of our biggest challenges remains how we encourage consumers to use our products more sustainably at home.

Looking ahead

Although there is considerable progress, we also face challenges that we can not solve alone.

We believe even more collaboration is needed between companies, governments, NGOs and consumers.

We would particularly welcome cross-sector collaboration in:

  • Reducing and eliminating deforestation associated with soy, palm oil, beef, pulp and paper by 2020;

  • Integrating hygiene behaviour change into national health policies and education curricula;

  • Linking more smallholder farmers into food supply chains;

  • Building infrastructure to promote waste recycling and recovery.

Paul Polman says: “The world continues to face big challenges. The lack of access of many to food, nutrition, basic hygiene and sanitation, clean drinking water or a decent job should be a concern to all of us.

“We firmly believe business has a big role to play in striving for more equitable and sustainable growth, but large-scale change will only come about if there is real collaboration between companies, governments and NGOs across all these areas.”

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