Published 10 years ago.
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Unilever's commitment to make sustainable and equitable growth the heart of its business model is helping to drive increased sales while reducing costs and risks, according to the second Unilever Sustainable Living Plan Progress Report, published today.
Brands that have made sustainability central to their brand proposition or product innovation have accelerated sales during 2012:
Unilever continues to integrate sustainability into the heart of many of its biggest brands: Dove, its largest personal care brand, redesigned its self-esteem program for young people in 2012 to further strengthen its engagement with consumers; and the company’s biggest brand, Knorr, last month launched its first product with a 'sustainably grown' label, with more to come.
At the same time, increased efficiency in Unilever factories through reductions in energy, water, materials and waste have saved the consumer goods giant over €300 million since 2008. The company has also reduced risk at a time of volatility in food commodity prices by increasing its purchases of agricultural raw materials from sustainable sources from 14% in 2010 to 36% in 2012.
"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,” says CEO Paul Polman. “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."
In 2010 Unilever set three goals, all to be achieved by 2020 — two years into its ten-year Sustainable Living Plan, Unilever reports progress on all three:
Although Unilever is reporting considerable progress, the company also faces challenges that it cannot solve alone. To reach its goals and achieve large-scale change, Unilever believes more collaboration is needed between companies, governments, NGOs and consumers, especially in the areas of: reducing and eliminating deforestation associated with soy, palm oil, beef, pulp and paper; integrating hygiene behaviour change into national health policies and education curricula; linking more smallholder farmers into food supply chains; and building infrastructure to promote waste recycling and recovery.
Helping consumers change their behaviour to live more sustainably is also key. In the absence of major framework changes by governments, the company is tackling this in a number of ways, from driving habit change through packaging solutions such as single-dose laundry detergent capsules, to working with retailers and civil society organisations to encourage shoppers to make sustainable choices at the supermarket and in the home.
"The world continues to face big challenges,” Polman said. “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."
Published Apr 24, 2013 12am EDT / 9pm PDT / 5am BST / 6am CEST