Unilever has avoided over €1bn in costs as part of its decade-long Sustainable Living Plan (USLP).
The firm said it had been able to avoid costs across brands such as Dove, Hellmann’s and Domestos by improving water and energy efficiency in its factories, using less material and producing less waste.
The USLP, which launched in 2010, outlined Unilever’s goals to embed human rights across the business, advocate social issues such as gender equality and halve its environmental impact.
Rebecca Marmot, chief sustainability officer at Unilever, said several hurdles had been identified as part of the project.
She said: “Unilever has many programmes to improve livelihoods and to enhance opportunities for women; but measuring their actual impact has proved extremely difficult.
“Likewise, the complexity of many of the global supply chains that we source from has made our sustainable procurement targets extra challenging.”
Alan Jope, CEO at Unilever, called for collective action to ensure that the crises of social inequality and climate change are not neglected in the wake of Covid-19.
“Businesses across sectors, governments across continents, NGOs, academics, researchers, scientists… we must all come together. We can’t put climate action on hold. We can’t tell the people who live in poverty to wait.
“2020 is the year in which an unthinkable amount of public money is going to be spent in support of getting the economy back on track. But we should not be seeking to get the economy ‘back to normal’. Instead, we must emerge stronger and more resilient than we were before; ready to take decisive and definitive action to look after people and the planet,” added Jope.
Jope said Unilever intended to build on its learnings from the USLP to help plan for its future in a post-Covid-19 world.
“Before the Covid-19 crisis, it was already clear that the current capitalist model is in need of repair. Globalisation and capitalism are good for a business like ours, but globalisation and capitalism at the expense of people and the planet are not. It’s therefore up to businesses like us, working with partners – NGOs, government organisations, academics, suppliers, customers – to drive a new model of capitalism, and build a better future.”
Jope concluded: “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."
Last month, Unilever announced it would provide €500m of cash flow relief for its most vulnerable SME suppliers as part of support measures.
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