Unilever plans US$1.12bn investment to accelerate sustainability ambitions

NETHERLANDS Anglo-Dutch consumer goods company, Unilever has sets out new range of measures and commitments to fight climate change, protect and regenerate nature as part of the company’s efforts to improve the health of the planet.

The Ben & Jerry’s and Knorr brands owner has pledged to achieve net zero emissions from all its products by 2039, have a deforestation-free supply chain by 2023 and invest €1 billion (US$1.12bn) in a new Climate & Nature Fund over the next ten years in projects that will accelerate its ambitions of promoting a sustainable ecosystem.

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While the commitments comes at a time when the world is dealing with the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, Alan Jope Unilever CEO says that climate change, nature degradation, biodiversity decline, water scarcity are all are interconnected, and must be addressed simultaneously.

“The planet is in crisis, and we must take decisive action to stop the damage, and to restore its health. In doing so, we must recognise that the climate crisis is not only an environmental emergency; it also has a terrible impact on lives and livelihoods.

“We, therefore, have a responsibility to help tackle the crisis: as a business, and through direct action by our brands.”

Unilever’s new €1 billion Climate & Nature Fund

To accelerate its action in tackling climate change, Unilever said that its brands will collectively invest €1 billion in a new dedicated Climate & Nature Fund  over the next ten years on initiatives that protect and improve the health of the planet.

The company explained that the €1 billion Climate & Nature Fund will be used take meaningful and decisive action in projects likely to include landscape restoration, reforestation, carbon sequestration, wildlife protection and water preservation.

The company noted that the investment will further cement the its other initiatives in championing a sustainable future including Ben & Jerry’s efforts in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from dairy farms, Seventh Generation advocating for clean energy for all and Knorr supporting farmers to grow food more sustainably.

“Our collective responsibility in tackling the climate crisis is to drive an absolute reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, not simply focus on offsetting – and we have the scale and determination to make it happen,” explains Marc Engel, Unilever Chief Supply Chain Officer.

“But this is not enough. If we want to have a healthy planet long into the future, we must also look after nature: forests, soil biodiversity and water ecosystems. We must, therefore, empower and work with a new generation of farmers and smallholders in order to make a step change in regenerating nature.”

Fighting the climate crisis

The commitment to net zero emissions from all its products by 2039 builds on Unilever’s existing science-based targets: to have no carbon emissions from its own operations, and to halve the GHG footprint of its products across the value chain, by 2030.

To achieve this goal 11 years ahead of the 2050 Paris Agreement deadline, the company said that it will work jointly with partners across our value chain, to collectively drive lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

Unilever said that it will therefore, prioritise building partnerships with suppliers who have set and committed to their own science-based targets to help monitor their progress on reducing carbon footprint.

Protecting and regenerating nature

The company has also set a target to achieve a deforestation-free supply chain by 2023 by using emerging digital technologies such as satellite monitoring, geolocation tracking and blockchain to increase traceability and transparency.

Unilever further reiterated its commitment to working with the industry, NGOs and governments, to look beyond forests, peatlands and tropical rainforests, and to protect other important areas of high conservation value and high carbon stock which are under threat of conversion to arable land, with potentially devastating impact on the natural habitats.

Unilever also revealed that it will be introducing a pioneering Regenerative Agriculture Code for all its suppliers. The company said that this will include details on farming practices that help rebuild critical resources.

The multinational has further pledged to step up direct efforts to preserve water by implementing water stewardship programmes for local communities in 100 locations by 2030.

In collaboration with partners and key suppliers, the Magnum brand owner said that it will work on replicating its community stewardship programme in India to improve water management in other affected communities.

The company has also unveiled that it will be joining the 2030 Water Resources Group, a multi-stakeholder platform hosted by the World Bank, to contribute to transformative change and building resilience in water management in key water-stressed markets, such as India, Brazil, South Africa, Vietnam and Indonesia.

To further protect water resources, Unilever has reinforced its commitment make its product formulations biodegradable by 2030, to minimize their impact on water and the aquatic ecosystems.

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