Unilever sets sustainable sourcing target

15 November 2010

15 November 2010 | Angeline Albert

All the agricultural raw materials used by Unilever will be sourced sustainably by 2020, the global food producer has pledged.

Some 10 per cent of the firm’s agricultural and forestry ingredients currently come from sustainable sources.

As part of its Sustainable Living Plan, Unilever, which is also a tea grower and buyer, said it will ensure the tea it sells (more than 300,000 tonnes a year) is 100 per cent sustainable by 2020. The group has tea estates in east Africa, as well as buying from third parties, including smallholders and on the world market. The company said it will have the tea in all its Lipton tea bags sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified estates by 2015. 

The group, whose brands include Dove, Vaseline, Persil, Marmite, Knorr, Hellmann’s and Pot Noodle, has set itself more than 50 social, economic and environmental targets. It aims to halve the greenhouse gas emissions, water used and waste produced not just by the company in its direct operations, but also by its suppliers and consumers.

“By halving the total carbon, water and waste impact of our products, primarily through innovation in the way we source, make and package them, we can help people make a small difference every time they use them,” said Unilever chief executive Paul Polman. “As our products are used two billion times a day in nearly every country in the world, our consumers’ small actions add up to make a big difference.”

Polman also announced plans to help more than one billion people take action to improve their health and wellbeing, mostly in developing countries, over the next decade.

Other goals Unilever plans to achieve by or before 2020 include: making safe drinking water available to half a billion people by extending sales of its low-cost in-home water purifier, Pureit, from India to other countries; and working with Oxfam, Rainforest Alliance and others to link more than 500,000 smallholder farmers and small-scale distributors into its supply chain.

“We are already finding that tackling sustainability challenges provides new opportunities for sustainable growth,” Polman added. “It creates preference for our brands, builds business with our retail customers, drives our innovation, grows our markets and, in many cases, generates cost savings.”

The group generated annual sales of €40 billion in 2009.
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