Unilever announced it has set out a new range of measures and commitments designed to improve the health of the planet by taking even more decisive action to fight climate change, and protect and regenerate nature, to preserve resources for future generations. They aim to achieve Net Zero emissions from all their products by 2039. They will also empower and work with a new generation of farmers and smallholders, driving programmes to protect and restore forests, soil and biodiversity; and will work with governments and other organisations to improve access to water for communities in water-stressed areas.
To accelerate action, Unilever’s brands will collectively invest €1 billion in a new dedicated Climate & Nature Fund. This will be used over the next ten years to take meaningful and decisive action, with projects likely to include landscape restoration, reforestation, carbon sequestration, wildlife protection and water preservation. The new initiatives will build on the work that is already underway, such as Ben & Jerry’s initiative to reduce GHG emissions from dairy farms; Seventh Generation advocating for clean energy for all; and Knorr supporting farmers to grow food more sustainably.
“While the world is dealing with the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and grappling with serious issues of inequality, we can’t let ourselves forget that the climate crisis is still a threat to all of us. Climate change, nature degradation, biodiversity decline, water scarcity – all these issues are interconnected, and we must address them all simultaneously. In doing so, we must also recognise that the climate crisis is not only an environmental emergency; it also has a terrible impact on lives and livelihoods. We, therefore, have a responsibility to help tackle the crisis: as a business, and through direct action by our brands,” said Alan Jope, CEO, Unilever.
The company’s existing science-based targets are: to have no carbon emissions from their own operations, and to halve the GHG footprint of their products across the value chain, by 2030. The company said they are additionally committing to net zero emissions from all their products by 2039 – from the sourcing of the materials used, up to the point of sale of products in the store.
Unilever said 89% of their forest-related commodities are certified as sustainably sourced to globally recognised standards, and they also seek visibility on exact sourcing locations. The company aims to achieve a deforestation-free supply chain by 2023, for which they will increase traceability and transparency by using emerging digital technologies, accelerating smallholder inclusion and changing their approach to derivates sourcing, as per the statement.
To further protect water resources, the company aim to make their product formulations biodegradable by 2030, to minimise their impact on water and the aquatic ecosystems. Although some of the ingredients they currently use have no viable biodegradable alternatives, Unilever said they will work with partners to drive innovation and find solutions to help reach their goal.
“Last year, we set out a plan to tackle perhaps the most visible environmental issue we have in the consumer goods industry: plastic packaging. We set ourselves new and stretching targets that include halving our use of virgin plastic, and helping collect and process more plastic packaging than we sell. While it’s critical to address the impact that our products have at the end of their life, it’s just as important to continue to look at the impact they have on the planet at the start of their life – in the sourcing of materials – as well as in their manufacture and transport. We will reduce the impact that our products and our operations have on the environment, and we will do our part to bring the planet back to health,” said Alan Jope.
Unilever is also introducing a pioneering Regenerative Agriculture Code for all their suppliers, that will build on their existing Sustainable Agriculture Code and it will include details on farming practices that help rebuild critical resources. The company aims to implement water stewardship programmes for local communities in 100 locations by 2030, and said they will join the 2030 Water Resources Group, a multi-stakeholder platform hosted by the World Bank, to build resilience in water management in key water-stressed markets, such as India, Brazil, South Africa, Vietnam and Indonesia.