Our Approach

We are living in a world where temperatures are rising, water is scarce, energy expensive, food supplies uncertain and the gap between rich and poor increasing. We cannot close our eyes to the problems the world faces. At Unilever we believe that business must be part of the solution. But to be so, business will have to change. Sustainable, equitable growth is the only acceptable business model.

We call our strategy for sustainable growth our Compass strategy. It sets out a clear and compelling vision of our future, in which our brands and services reach and inspire people across the world, helping us double the size of our business whilst reducing our environmental footprint and increasing our positive social impact.

By leveraging our global reach and inspiring people to take small, everyday actions, we believe we can help make a big difference to the world.

Launched in 2010, the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan is our blueprint for sustainable growth. We have set out three big goals to achieve by 2020:

  • Help more than a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being.

  • Halve the environmental footprint of the making and use of our products as we grow our business.

  • Enhance the livelihoods of millions of people as we grow our business.

The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan is distinctive. It spans our entire portfolio of brands and all countries in which we sell our products.

It has a social and economic dimension – our products make a difference to health and well-being and our business supports the livelihoods of many people.

And when it comes to the environment, we work across the whole value chain – from the sourcing of raw materials to the way consumers use our products.

Working across the value chain reflects our ambition to tackle our biggest social and environmental impacts which often occur outside our direct control – on the farms where raw materials are grown and in people’s homes when they cook, clean and wash with our products.

Evolution of our Plan

We have learnt a great deal since we launched the Plan three years ago. In 2013 we undertook an in-depth review with every product category and business function. We identified actions that will help us drive sustainable growth faster and remove barriers to progress.

As a result we have broadened our Plan with a more substantive and far-reaching Enhancing Livelihoods programme.

The most significant change we have made is to recognise that we can make a bigger difference to some of the world’s major social, environmental and economic issues if we leverage our scale, influence and resources. So in future we will deepen our efforts in a few areas to make a transformational difference.

Enhancing Livelihoods

Enhancing livelihoods is about the impact we can have as a business on people’s lives. We can do this by widening opportunities, increasing skills and including more people in our business growth. It’s about respecting and, where necessary, protecting their fundamental human and labour rights.

We have made three new commitments:

  • Drive Fairness in the Workplace by advancing human rights across our operations and extended supply chain.

  • Advance Opportunities for Women by promoting their safety, providing up-skilling and expanding opportunities.

  • Develop Inclusive Business to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, improve the incomes of small-sclale retailers and increase the participation of young entrepreneurs in our value chain.

Our aim is to increase the positive social impact we have through our products, our campaigns and our behaviour to each other, to those we do business with and the communities in which we operate.

Ultimately this helps the business to grow, since healthy societies support healthy businesses and high standards of corporate behaviour reduce our operational and reputational risk.

Driving Transformational Change

We have set a bold ambition to achieve change within our own company – through our brands, innovation, sourcing and operations. But we are only one company among many and the change needed to tackle the world’s major social, environmental and economic issues is big - and urgent.

What’s really needed are changes to the broader systems of which we are a part – whether that is in food, energy or health.

We have decided to deepen our efforts in three areas where we have the scale, influence and resources to create ‘transformational change’. By that we mean fundamental change to whole systems, not simply incremental improvements. These areas are:

  • Working to eliminate deforestation from supply chains.

  • Championing sustainable agriculture and the development of smallholder farmers.

  • Improving hygiene through handwashing, safe drinking water and sanitation.

Going beyond what we can achieve in our own operations and with our suppliers, we are stepping up our engagement to work with governments, NGOs and others in our industry on these issues. By working together, we believe that fundamental change is possible in the near term.

In short

We have found that doing business sustainably is possible and that brands that build sustainability into their offer are more appealing to consumers. We realise that we can make a bigger difference to some of the world’s major social, environmental and economic issues if we leverage our scale, influence and resources to drive transformational change.

The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan is inspiring our efforts.