Unilever reveals first year progress in reaching sustainability targets – locally and globally

Unilever has published a report on the progress it is making, both globally and locally, in meeting sustainability targets it set out in November 2010.

The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan committed to take responsibility for the company’s impacts right across the value chain, from sourcing raw materials through to how consumers use its products.

The report [pdf file 4.05MB]claims the company is making “genuinely good progress” in the areas of sustainable sourcing, nutrition and eco-efficiency. For example, 24% of total agricultural raw materials are now being sourced sustainably, compared with 14% in 2010. In Ireland, all Lyons tea bags will be fully Rainforest Alliance Certified by the end of 2012; the Ben & Jerry’s range is now 100% Fairtrade; and the company has made a commitment that by the end of 2013 all Magnum ice creams will use Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa and Hellmann’s and Ben & Jerry’s use only cage free eggs.

Globally, Unilever is expecting to reach its target of 100% certified sustainable palm oil covered by Green Palm Certificates by the end of this year, three years ahead of schedule. The company has now set a new target of purchasing all its palm oil from traceable sources by 2020, meaning that it will be able to track the certified oil back to the plantation on which it was originally grown.

As regards nutrition, the report says over 90% of the company’s leading spreads now contain less than one-third saturated fat. In Ireland, the saturated fat content in Flora Original and Light were recently further reduced and Flora Cuisine was also introduced as a healthier option for roasting, baking and frying.

The report reveals that renewable energy now contributes 20% of Unilever’s total energy use. All electricity purchased in Europe is now from renewable sources. In 2011, CO2 emissions per tonne of production were reduced by 100%; water abstraction per tonne of production was cut by 17%; and total waste per tonne of production fell by 100pc. In Ireland, the company is working to improve its logistics CO2 efficiency by 25% across warehousing and transport of finished goods by 2015.

Elsewhere, the report reveals Unilever has had to consider carefully how to reach its targets in certain areas but is now ready to scale up. In Ireland, for example, it has recently reduced the amount of material in our Pond’s, Stork and Flora Cuisine packs and introduced a lightweight jar for its Colman’s dressings, saving over 925 tonnes of material a year.

The company is, however, finding it difficult to make progress in certain areas and will need to work with others to find solutions, according to the report. This, it says, applies particularly to targets that require consumer behaviour change, such as encouraging people to eat foods with lower salt levels or reducing the use of heated water in showering and washing clothes.

“We have put the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan at the heart of everything we do at Unilever Ireland,” said Jill Ross, managing director, Unilever Ireland. “We believe that our future success is wholly dependent on this and in fact, we are now seeing increasing evidence that it can drive business growth.

“Some great progress has been made to date particularly in the areas of sustainable sourcing, health and nutrition and reducing greenhouse gases. But there is plenty left to accomplish and though we don’t have all the answers, we are ready to face the challenge by working with expert partners both locally and globally.”

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