In 2010, consumer goods company Unilever announced their ambitious Sustainable Living Plan. This plan outlines the requirements that the company has for sourcing, supply chain and production. These requirements are also inclusive of guidelines of water and energy consumption, worker rights and circular economy for plastic packaging. 2020 marks the tenth and final year of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan and there is certainly cause for celebration and an acknowledgment that more work needs to be done.
In the ten years since the plan was unveiled, Unilever has:
Helped more than 1.3 billion people improve their health and hygiene
Increased the amount of agricultural raw materials that are sustainably sourced from 14% to 62%
Converted to using 100% renewable grid electricity in global manufacturing operations
Ranked No.1 for sustainable leadership by GlobeScan and SustainAbility in 2011 and 2020
While these accomplishments are notable, leaders at Unilever learned key lessons along the ten-year journey of the Sustainable Living Plan. Such lessons include understanding the complexity of supply chain visibility. The company commented that it was difficult to maintain and deliver sustainable sourcing targets with full visibility of the supply chain for ingredients. Moving forward, Unilever has had to refocus on ingredients where sustainable sourcing was likely to have a higher impact. Unilever also recognized the need to become more flexible and adapt to the fast pace of change, particularly when it comes to addressing plastic waste.
With these learnings in mind, Unilever has again committed to ambitious goals for sustainability. The company unveiled a new strategy, Unilever Compass, which will help guide it toward its goal of being the leader in sustainable business globally. Similar to the Sustainable Living Plan, Unilever Compass has 15 priorities with targets to address issues such as packaging waste, gender equality and human rights. For their commitment to improving sustainable living for all, Unilever receives this week’s shoutout.