Unilever adds new elements to its Sustainable Agriculture Code

Unilever has updated its Sustainable Agriculture Code to add elements around human rights, labour rights, gender issues, land use change and land rights. This follows the announcement earlier this month that 55% of Unilever’s agricultural raw materials are sustainably sourced.

Benefiting farmers and the planet

The implementation of the Code with suppliers has delivered significant results for brands such as Knorr, Flora and Fruttare. Brands such as Knorr are partnering with farmers to help them introduce sustainable practices. This not only ensures quality ingredients in products but also benefits the livelihoods of farmers and the future of the planet.

Reducing risk and enhancing reputation

The Code also helps deliver business benefits. Doing Business with Nature, a report published by the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership in February 2015, provides evidence for the business case for managing natural capital. It argues that by sustainably managing their interactions with the environment, businesses can benefit from a reduction in both input costs and supply chain risk, as well as enhanced brand reputation.

Moving towards an industry-wide code

To maintain the rate of acceleration of sustainably sourced materials, Unilever recognises it needs more collaboration with peer businesses in order to drive systematic change. Much of this is achieved through the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform, a group of over 60 companies from the food and beverage industry, which actively support the development of sustainable agriculture.

David Pendlington, Unilever’s Sustainable Sourcing Director, Procurement, said: "We want to give others in the industry the confidence to build sustainable agriculture at scale. We genuinely need to be working with our peers and there is a role for all to play. In the future, we need to move towards an industry-wide code and use our current Sustainable Agriculture Code as a leverage point to encourage public debate.”

What counts as ‘sustainably sourced’?

The original Sustainable Agriculture Code was developed in 2010 and applies to all agricultural raw materials and producing regions in the company’s supply chain. For Unilever, there are two main routes to ensure raw materials count as ‘sustainably sourced’, either by working towards one of the recognised certification standards or through self-assessment using the Code.

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