The Plan was put in place four years ago and now, at Unilever’s London headquarters this week, the company says that it is making a growing and positive impact on its business in terms of growth, cost efficiency and resilience for the future.
Many of the Anglo-Dutch giant’s brands have led the way on sustainable living and are achieving above average growth, with high single and double digit sales over the past three years, which pleases company CEO, Paul Polman.
“In a volatile world of growing social inequality, rising population, development challenges and climate change, the need for businesses to adapt is clear, as are the benefits and opportunities. This calls for a transformational approach across the whole value chain if we are to continue to grow,” he says.
“Consumers are recognising this too, increasingly demanding responsible business and responsible brands. Our experience is that brands whose purpose and products respond to that demand – ‘sustainable living brands’ – are delivering stronger and faster growth.”
The Unilever boss explains that these brands accounted for half the company’s growth in 2014 and grew at twice the rate of the rest of the business.
The company also confirms that it is on track to meet most of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan goals, with the consumer element remaining the most challenging.
Getting consumers to reduce their environmental impact is more challenging as it is an external factor that can be influenced but harder to control and is heavily dependent on wider market shifts.
However, Unilever says it has started to decouple its environmental footprint from its underlying sales growth.
Within the its supply chain, there is promising progress, as more than 55% of its agricultural raw materials are now sustainably sourced, reducing the risk to supply - more than half way to its 2020 target of 100%.
It has also achieved its target of zero non-hazardous waste to landfill across its factory network, and is making significant reductions in CO2 from energy and water in manufacturing, reducing them by 37% and 32% per tonne of production respectively since 2008.