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Unilever Marks Sustainable Living Plan’s 10th Year; New ‘Compass’ to Guide Further Progress

In 10th and final year of the company’s Sustainable Living Plan, CEO Alan Jope reinforces commitment to sustainability leadership; calls for renewed action to tackle social inequality and the climate crisis in post-COVID world.

Unilever is celebrating the final year of its 10-year Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP). Speaking at a global virtual event this week, CEO Alan Jope reinforced the consumer goods giant’s commitment to making sustainable living commonplace for 8 billion people, and called for collective action to ensure that the crises of social inequality and climate change are not neglected in the wake of COVID-19.

Jope called the USLP “a game-changer” for the company. He said that, while not all goals were met, “we are a better business for trying.”

As the USLP journey concludes, Jope said Unilever will continue to build on everything it’s learned along the way and set new challenges to build on it. He added:

“Before the COVID-19 crisis, it was already clear that the current capitalist model is in need of repair. Globalization and capitalism are good for a business like ours, but globalization and capitalism at the expense of people and the planet are not. While we don’t really know what the world will look like post-COVID-19, I am convinced that there will be no future unless we double down on our commitments to look after people and the planet. It’s therefore up to businesses like us, working with partners — NGOs, government organizations, academics, suppliers, customers — to drive a new model of capitalism, and build a better future.”

Unilever’s growing stable of over 28 Sustainable Living Brands — which includes Ben & Jerry’s, Domestos, Dove, Hellmann’s, Knorr, Lifebuoy, Love Beauty and Planet, and Seventh Generation — have consistently outperformed the average growth rate of the rest of the portfolio since the metric was introduced in 2014. Implementing the USLP has helped the company avoid over €1bn in costs through, for example, improvements in water and energy efficiency in factories; and embracing circular packaging strategies through partnerships with platforms such as Algramo and Loop. The company says the USLP has also been a key factor in attracting the best talent; as well as forging strong partnerships with NGOs, government organizations and other businesses.

Going forward, Unilever is committed to continuing its sustainability leadership in every sense of the word — socially, environmentally and economically; to that end, the company has unveiled a new strategy: the Unilever Compass, which will guide it toward its goal to be the leader in sustainable business globally.

In a blog post, Jope explained that the Compass “is our new, fully integrated corporate strategy which builds on the successes and the lessons learnt over the last ten years of the USLP. It 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.”

The Unilever Compass is based on three core beliefs: that brands with purpose grow, companies with purpose last, and people with purpose thrive. The 15 priorities will each have ambitious targets for tackling key challenges such as packaging and waste, gender equality, human rights and fair value — as well as climate change and social inclusion. The company says the Compass will be just as rigorous as the USLP, and will be more holistic, inclusive, and far-reaching than ever. More details will be unveiled in due course.

Jope concluded, “The USLP is drawing to a close, but the journey towards achieving our purpose of making sustainable living commonplace certainly isn’t. In fact, as the world is changing increasingly quickly, our employees, our consumers, our customers, our suppliers, our partners expect more from us. We know that we can continue to lead the charge, but we need to be better, bolder and faster."

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