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Not business as usual for Unilever

HOVIK, NORWAY: Another warning for companies who still think "business as usual" is sustainable has come from global verification service DNV GL.

In a report assessing the sustainability performance of the world's largest companies, it notes that only a handful seem to be preparing for a necessary paradigm shift in how to conduct business in future.

Holcim Silonwaggon bei WassenThey include Unilever, top of its survey for the second year running, followed by Holcim (right), Intel and Nestlé in joint second place and Diageo placed No.5. Making up the remainder of its top 10 list are Akzo Nobel, China Steel Corporation, GE, Microsoft and equally placed Ferrovial and Sanofi.

Jon Woodhead, director for DNV GL – Business Assurance, commented: "It is becoming increasingly clear that as a global society and economy, we are reaching the limits to traditional growth."

He added that while decoupling economic growth from the impact of carbon emissions, resource extraction and biodiversity loss is the only solution, only a handful of companies are starting to make these commitments.

DNV GL claims its research conclusively demonstrates that the majority of companies globally are not displaying the leadership required to enable the world economy to create a future planet worth living on. It says the world's top companies "urgently need to develop collaborative responses across their value chains and establish new, science-based metrics for sustainability to achieve the necessary changes".

Highlights from the company's latest survey suggest only half of the companies analysed have meaningful SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) targets against material issues; sector leaders such as Unilever, Microsoft and Nestlé are utilising sustainability innovations to drive future growth and competitive advantage; and too many companies are still failing to integrate sustainability risks and opportunities into their risk management approaches.

Woodhead noted that population expansion, rapid urbanisation and over-consumption of finite natural resources are beginning to lead companies to a point where, without urgent change, "global systemic collapse becomes not just a remote possibility, but a distinct probability".

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