UK – Consumer packaged goods company Unilever has revealed that an ‘overwhelming majority’ of its shareholders voted in favour of its climate transition action plan.

The company first announced that it would seek shareholder approval for its plan back in December, claiming that it was the first ‘major global company’ to voluntarily commit to putting its climate transition plans before a shareholder vote.

The vote took place at a virtual meeting on 5th May, in which Unilever intended to strengthen its engagement and dialogue with its investors.

According to a report by Reuters, Unilever said that over 99% of shareholders who voted, backed its plan to become a net-zero business by 2039.

The company’s climate action plan includes transitioning to renewable energy sources, eliminating fossil fuels from its cleaning products, as well as reducing corporate travel and refrigeration emissions.

Included in the plans are measures to help suppliers set approved science-based targets and to adopt the systems, processes and technologies needed to deliver them.

For manufacturers and chemicals and ingredients suppliers, Unilever’s  focus will be on renewable electricity, low-carbon heating and cooling and efficient processes.

 Suppliers in agriculture, meanwhile, will be supported to reduce water and fertiliser consumption, transition to renewably-powered tools and machinery and implement regenerative practices that increase carbon sequestration.

 Unilever hopes that these actions will help it to become net zero within its own operations and halve the impact of its products across its supply chain by 2030.

“Climate change represents a clear and present danger to our value chain,” said Unilever CEO, Alan Jope at the virtual meeting.

“The overwhelming vote shows support to our ambitious emission reduction targets,” he added.

The news on the Action Plan comes shortly after the firm joined a new task force exploring ways of making fossil-fuel-based polymers commonly used in health and beauty products more sustainable.

Unilever receiving blessings from shareholders to pursue a climate action plan is a big boost to the company as it gives it the go ahead to boldly invest considerable amounts of money in activities that require time before any benefits are realized.

Under CEO Emmanuel Faber, French Dairy company, Danone aggressively pursued sustainability goals, becoming one of only ten companies with an ‘AAA’ environment score in 2020.

Danone’s policy was however strongly criticized by activist shareholders who believed that under Faber, the company was concentrating more on sustainability at the expense of shareholder value.

This dissatisfaction led to Emmanuel Faber being ousted from the position of Group CEO and Chairman and the splitting of the role of CEO and Chairman.

UK finance giant Barclays has also reported that its shareholders failed to support a motion that would require the bank to divest from fossil fuels more rapidly as part of its journey to net-zero by 2050.

The shareholder support for Unilever’s climate change action plan is thus a major win for the food industry and the environment.

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