Unilever’s Sustainable Living brands outstrip rest of business

Unilever has continued to present the business case for sustainability, with the consumer goods firm's 'Sustainable Living' brands delivering more than 60% of its growth last year, and growing at twice the rate of the rest of the company.

Unilever has revealed that its Sustainable Living division – which aims to integrate sustainability into the group’s ‘purpose’ and ‘products’ – is leading the way on sustainable living, with brands such as Ben & Jerry’s, Dove and Hellmann’s, achieving above average growth over the past six years.

The latest results represent an advance on Unilever’s performance in the previous year, when the Sustainable Living brands contributed to half of its growth, and developed 30% faster than the rest of the firm. Unilever chief executive Paul Polman hailed the company’s “great progress” at the launch of its sixth Sustainable Living Plan progress report in London today (18 May).

“Our results show that sustainability is good for business, with increasing evidence that our ‘Sustainable Living brands’ do better,” Polman said.

“There is no doubt that the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan is making us more competitive by helping us to build our brands and spur innovation, strengthen our supply chain and reduce our risks, lower our costs, and build trust in our business. It is helping Unilever to serve society and our many consumers, and in doing so, create value for shareholders.

“By continuing to work with others, we hope to mobilise a new kind of growth, one that taps into the economic opportunities that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) present.”

Sustainable Living

To help accelerate efforts on sustainable living, Unilever commissioned consumer research to gain a better understanding of the key issues driving people’s purchasing habits and behaviour. According to the study, more than half of all consumers already buy or want to buy sustainably. One in three (33%) already purchase products with sustainability in mind, the research claims, while a further 21% do not currently but would like to.

The update reveals that Unilever is on track to meet the majority of the targets set out in the Sustainable Living Plan, which includes the company’s flagship target to secure carbon positive status for its own operations. The Dutch-Anglo firm revealed it had saved almost £600m through efficiency measures in its factories since 2008, of which waste management measures had contributed to savings of around £200m.

Since the launch of the Plan, the company has reduced CO2 emissions from energy by 43% per tonne of production and water by 37% per tonne of production. And by the end of 2014, the firm had achieved zero non-hazardous waste to landfill across its global factory network.

Figures show that Unilever has also increased use of renewable energy in its manufacturing sites to 31.6%, and continued to source more than 50% of its agricultural raw materials sustainably by the end of last year.

Unilever last week unveiled a breakthrough technology which aims to address the systemic global issue of multilayer plastic sachet waste. The development forms part of Unilever’s overall goal to ensure that 100% of its plastic packaging is fully re-usable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

George Ogleby

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