Unilever to let shareholders vote on new climate targets

Unilever has become one of the first global companies to voluntarily commit to putting new climate targets to a shareholder vote, with the company's science-based targets currently focusing on zero emissions for its operations.

Unilever to let shareholders vote on new climate targets

Unilever will seek an advisory vote every three years on any proposed updates to the plan

Unilever announced on Monday (14 December) that its climate transition action plan would be placed before a shareholder vote for the first time, in a bid to gain a non-binding advisory agreement on the company’s decarbonisation plans.

Unilever will share its climate transition action plan in the first quarter of 2021, ahead of its AGM in May. The plan will then be updated based on shareholder feedback and Unilever will seek an advisory vote every three years on any proposed updates to the plan. The company will report annually against the plan from 2022.

Unilever’s chief executive Alan Jope said: “Climate change is the most pressing issue of our time and we are determined to play a leadership role in accelerating the transition to a zero-carbon economy. We have a wide-ranging and ambitious set of climate commitments – but we know they are only as good as our delivery against them. That’s why we will be sharing more detail with our shareholders who are increasingly wanting to understand more about our strategy and plans.

“We welcome this increased transparency and in the plan we present, we will be clear both about the areas in our direct control where we have a high degree of certainty of our route to net-zero, as well as more challenging areas across our value chain where systemic solutions will be required to achieve our targets.”

The new voting approach builds on a year of new targets for Unilever. In September, the company unveiled plans to replace 100% of the carbon derived from fossil fuels in its cleaning and laundry products with captured, natural and recycled carbon within a decade.

In June, 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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