Unilever enhances global water stewardship efforts

Unilever will introduce water stewardship programmes for local communities

Unilever has joined both the 2030 Water Resources Group and the Alliance for Water Stewardship, pledging to implement new projects and initiatives to improve water management in nations suffering from water scarcity and poor water quality.

For the 2030 Water Resources Group – set up by the World Bank – Unilever will create projects across India, Brazil, South Africa, Vietnam and Indonesia to improve water management.

As part of the Alliance for Water Stewardship, the corporate giant will introduce water stewardship programmes for local communities, manufacturing operations and suppliers in 100 water-stressed locations by 2030.

Unilever chief executive Alan Jope said, “While the world is dealing with the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and grappling with serious issues of inequality, we can’t let ourselves forget that the climate crisis is still a threat to all of us.

“Climate change, nature degradation, biodiversity decline, water scarcity – all these issues are interconnected, and we must address them all simultaneously. In doing so, we must also 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.”

Water scarcity and poor water quality isn’t just an issue for developing countries. Around 40% of the world’s population is impacted by water scarcity, with the World Bank noting that more than two billion people consumer unsafe drinking water.

As well as joining the two initiatives, Unilever is expanding its existing water stewardship efforts. Project Prabhat, launched in December 2013, to improve water stewardship at key Unilever factories and facilities in rural India. A Sustainable Living Plan linked programme, the Project has reached almost three million people across more than 30 locations in India to date.

In Dhaka, Bangladesh, Unilever will continue to work with WRG and the Red Crescent Society to supply clean drinking water for hospitals with Covid-19 patients. An education campaign on the importance of handwashing and hygiene will attempt to reach 20 million people.

“We all know water is critical for lives and livelihoods; yet we are wasting it, polluting it, and taking it for granted. We need collective action to solve a water crisis that is wreaking havoc in villages, towns and cities across our planet,” Jope added.


The ambition under Unilever’s involvement with the Alliance for Water Stewardship is one of the company’s new sustainability commitments.

Last month, Unilever unveiled a new set of sustainability commitments, pledging to end its contribution to deforestation, promote regenerative agriculture, transition to biodegradable ingredients and reach net-zero emissions for products by 2039 – all supported by a new €1bn Climate and Nature fund.

Having already set science-based targets to eliminate carbon emissions from its operations and to halve the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across its products and value chain by 2030, Unilever has now pledged to reach net-zero emissions for products by 2039. Net-zero emissions will account for the sourcing of the materials used, up to the point of sale for products. 

Accompanying the net-zero commitment is a new €1bn Climate & Nature Fund that will be used over the next decade to introduce projects across its brand portfolio that will focus on land restoration, reforestation, carbon sequestration, wildlife protection and water preservation.

Matt Mace

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