Making sustainable agriculture mainstream

We are working with our partners to create a wider movement towards sustainable sourcing, one that will transform the agriculture industry.

Partnerships are vital for success

We cannot achieve our ambitions for our own supply chain and for transforming the industry without the help of others. To achieve change at scale, we need to go beyond what we can achieve in our own operations and with our suppliers.

There are two principal mechanisms we can use. One is to build partnerships; the other is to deploy advocacy on public policy. We are doing both. We are stepping up our engagement with governments, NGOs and others in our industry, and are forming partnerships to demonstrate the change we want to see.

Driving change

Our Unilever Sustainable Agriculture Code (SAC) and its Scheme Rules (PDF | 2MB) guide our suppliers, and the farmers who supply them, to adopt sustainable practices on their farms.

We also encourage collaboration, which has enabled other companies and entire sectors of the farming industry to use our SAC. A good example is North America, where we have promoted sustainable soy by working in partnership with Field to Market, our supplier ADM and ADM’s farmers, the Iowa Soybean Association and WWF. We expanded from our first pilot of 44,000 acres in 2013 to 400,000 acres in 2015 to create a supply of sustainable soy for Hellmann’s.

Another example is Australia, which in 2013 became the first country whose dairy industry complies with our Code. All dairy production accredited by Dairy Australia – which represents the country’s entire dairy sector – now meets the Code’s requirements.

We play a leading role in several global forums to promote sustainability. For example, in 2010, we obtained a commitment to zero deforestation by 2020 by the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF). CGF comprises 400 members, including all the world’s major consumer goods manufacturers, retailers and service providers, with combined sales of €2.5 trillion. This has accelerated the efforts of CGF members.

At a multi-sectoral level, we co-founded the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil in 2004 and the Round Table on Responsible Soy in 2006. We have also led the foundation of the Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA), a public-private partnership between CGF and governments of the US, UK, Netherlands, Norway, Indonesia and Liberia. TFA is committed to reducing, and eventually eliminating, deforestation associated with the sourcing of palm oil, soy, beef, pulp and paper.

The Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform

To catalyse change with others in the food industry, we worked with Nestlé and Danone to establish the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform (SAI Platform) in 2002. Today, the initiative involves some 80 companies from the food and beverage industry. It aims to build knowledge about sustainable agriculture, and communicate widely with a range of stakeholders.

The SAI Platform has working groups on four commodity areas. These include dairy, arable and vegetable crops, coffee, fruit and nuts. Another working group addresses water-related issues and has developed an online database of water management best practice.

The SAI Platform has developed the world’s first industry-aligned Farm Self Assessment (FSA) of sustainable agriculture practices. Launched in 2014, this enables farmers to assess their practices in a way that is universally recognised by the food and drink industry. The agreed set of assessment criteria for farmers meets the sustainable sourcing needs of many companies. Any farmer can complete the assessment online and it can be used for most crop types, farm sizes and locations around the world.

The SAI Platform has also played a key role in establishing a Global Dairy Agenda for Action on Climate Change. We are an active member of most of the working groups.

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