Unilever: Making Sustainable Living Commonplace for the Billions
As Unilever celebrates the tenth and final year of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), their new strategy, Unilever Compass, builds upon the existence of sustainability at the core of corporate operations.
As a vast global conglomerate, Unilever produces some of the most recognisable products that we all know and love. Supporting around 400 major brands – including Dove, Lipton and Vaseline – a Unilever product can be found in a staggering seven out of ten households on Earth, demonstrating the enormity of their reach.
Unilever’s Corporate Purpose states that to succeed requires “the highest standards of corporate behaviour towards everyone we work with, the communities we touch, and the environment on which we have an impact.”
In an ever-evolving climate, global positions on climate change differ greatly from what they were a decade ago. With the USLP at the heart of Unilever’s operations for the past decade, ensuring sustainability in the essence of their business model proved to be ambitious for the time, setting numerous goals from the social and environmental to the economic across their value chain.
Reflecting upon the USLP
With three primary goals of improving health and well-being for over one billion people, reducing environmental impact by half and enhancing livelihoods for millions, Unilever’s approach to suitability integrated business models sets a precedent. Aiming to drive change, the USLP works within the remit of the UN Sustainable development Goals (SDGs).
Boasting a wealth of achievements over the past decade, Unilever have reached 13 billion through their health and hygiene programmes and moved towards a gender-balanced worked place with 51% of management roles being held by women. Most importantly, however, the global company have reduced their manufacturing GHG emissions by 50% and have reached an impressive 100% renewable grid electricity.
Business for sustainability
Something critical to Unilever’s success and practice is the culmination of business and sustainability, aiming to make sustainable living commonplace, whilst separating their carbon footprint from economic growth; all of which the USLP has facilitated.
“It was a really different way of doing business,” suggests Rebecca Marmot, Chief Sustainability Officer at Unilever. “It meant not just thinking about consumers and shareholders, it also meant thinking about civil society, NGOs, the UN. We realised that if you orientate business in a different way you can play a massive part in bridging development gaps around the world – and that creates opportunities for business.”
Demonstrating the ability for sustainability to encourage, rather than impede business, Unilever is the shining example of why old, environmentally damaging business models should be relegated to a thing of the past.
Unilever has reflected on the strength that a sustainable approach has brought to their business. Their dedication to the USLP led to increased growth and innovation in their brands, as well as securing supply and reducing costs. Not only this, but the USLP has also enabled them to increase their reach and promote transformational change.
Progressing towards Compass
Follow the triumph of the USLP, Unilever Compass represents an opportunity for even greater growth and change for Unilever. With the primary intention to become the global leader in sustainable business, Unilever aims to do so in full scope, including sustainability in social, economic, and of course, environmental terms.
Building upon the successes and the lessons learnt over the last ten years of the USLP, the new strategy “will have nine imperatives and 15 multi-year priorities that cover the full spectrum of our business and our wider ecosystem, with a range of ambitious targets that are more holistic, inclusive and far-reaching than ever before,” according to Unilever CEO, Alan Jope.
“While the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan is drawing to a close, the journey towards achieving our purpose of making sustainable living commonplace for the world’s 8 billion people continues. We know we can lead the charge, but we need to be better, bolder and faster,” Jope continues.
For more information on the admiral sustainability work of Unilever, please see here, and for an in-depth look at the new Unilever Compass plan, please see here.