Unilever ahead of target on sustainable sourcing

Unilever is now sourcing more than a third of its agricultural raw materials sustainably, exceeding the interim milestone of 30% it set itself in 2010 under its Sustainable Living Plan.

The company has now reached 36% of its 100% sustainable sourcing target, which has been set for 2020. The improvement was made against a backdrop of annual sales of €51bn in 2012, and comes ahead of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan progress report which will be released later this month.

Under one of its brands, Knorr, Unilever launched a new soup in France last year – this became the first product to promote an ingredient (tomatoes) as sustainably grown in accordance with the Unilever Sustainable Agriculture Code.

This was made possible through the Knorr Sustainability Partnership Fund, which uses €1m a year to support vegetable suppliers on complex sustainable agriculture projects.

All palm oil is now covered by GreenPalm certificates, and Unilever is working towards the new commitment to 100% certified sustainable palm oil which is traceable back to the plantations on which it is grown.

In South Africa, the company is working with one of its suppliers to improve traceability in the supply chain. Here farmers are given financial incentives to develop hybrid seeds with higher yields.

The oils can then be traced right back to the individual farms where the seeds were grown. The next step will be to scale-up the project and roll it out to different provinces and more farmers.

According to Unilever’s chief procurement officer Marc Engel, half of the raw materials the company buys are from the farming and forestry industries.

“Ensuring a secure supply of these materials is a major business issue,” he said. “However, sustainable sourcing is not only about managing business risks, it also presents an opportunity for growth, allowing brands to stand out in the marketplace.”

Maxine Perella

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