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17 Nov 2010 02:11:03

Unilever unveils new sustainability plan

Unilever launched yesterday the Sustainable Living Plan that focuses on its supply chain and aims, over ten years, to cut its environmental impact in half.
Following on the heels of similar long term targets set by Procter & Gamble, Unilever unveiled yesterday its 2020 Sustainability Plan, with which the company aims to double sales while cutting the water, waste and carbon impacts of its products by 2020.

The "Sustainable Living Plan" focuses on Unilever's entire supply chain, and will cover not just Unilever's carbon emissions, waste and water use, but the impact caused by its suppliers and consumers, from the farms that supply raw materials for its products to the carbon emissions and waste generated by customers of Unilever brands, which include Dove, Persil, Bertolli, Flora and PG Tips.

Unilever’s new Sustainable Living Plan was launched simultaneously in London, Amsterdam, Delhi and New York and it is the result of 12 months' planning. Unilever made the announcement at an event that also addressed the question "Can consumption become sustainable?”.

The global consumer products giant plans to improve the health of 1 billion people, to buy 100% of its agricultural raw materials from sustainable sources, and to reduce the environmental impact of everything it sells by one-half, while doubling its revenues. These are very ambitious goals considering that the company touches two billion consumers a day.

The biggest challenge is that a company can grow its sales without growing its environmental footprint. As Dave Lewis, president of Unilever Americas, put it: "We cannot choose between growth and sustainability. We have to do both."

The targets set by Unilever include the following:

• Sourcing 100% of agricultural raw materials sustainably by 2015, including 100% sustainable palm oil -Unilever buys 3% of the world's annual supply of palm oil.
• Improve standards of living by working with agencies such as Oxfam and the Rainforest Alliance to link 500,000 smallholders and small-scale distributors to the Unilever supply chain.
• Change the hygiene habits of 1 billion people in Asia, Africa and Latin America to help reduce diarrhea by pushing sales of its Lifebuoy soap brand, and teach consumers when to wash their hands to achieve this aim.
• Make drinking water safer in developing countries by extending sales of its Pureit home water purifier.

Unilever also intends to improve the nutritional quality of its food products - with cuts in salt, saturated fats, sugar and calories - ,and link more than 500,000 smallholder farmers and small scale distributors in developing countries to its supply chain."

The Sustainable Living Plan lays out long term wide targets that set a high bar for success. Earlier this year, Unilever announced a plan to use 100% sustainably sourced paper for packaging by 2020. It also follows similar commitment from other top-level consumer-goods companies: Procter & Gamble set a number of 10-year sustainability goals, including the use of 100% renewable energy and 100% renewable or recycled materials for packaging at the end of September. And last month, Walmart set new goals for supporting sustainable agriculture through its operations.

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