LONDON/ROTTERDAM: Four years after the start of its plan to integrate sustainability into all aspects of its business, Unilever says its Dove, Lifebuoy, Ben & Jerry's and Comfort brands have achieved above average growth over the past three years.
The company says it has started to decouple its environmental footprint from its underlying sales growth with its sustainable brands now representing half of the increase.
Paul Polman, Unilever CEO Paul Polman commented: "In a volatile world of growing social inequality, rising population, development challenges and climate change, the need for businesses to adapt is clear, as are the benefits and opportunities. This calls for a transformational approach across the whole value chain if we are to continue to grow."
Polman added that consumers are increasingly demanding responsible business and responsible brands: "Our experience is that brands whose purpose and products respond to that demand – 'sustainable living brands' – are delivering stronger and faster growth. These brands accounted for half the company's growth in 2014 and grew at twice the rate of the rest of the business."
The company says it has reduced its supply chain risk by sustainably sourcing 55 percent of its agricultural raw materials with a goal of reaching 100 percent by 2020. It has also achieved a target of zero non-hazardous waste-to-landfill across its factory network, and has reduced CO2 emissions from energy and water in manufacturing by 37 and 32 percent respectively per tonne since 2008. Against a target to help improve the health and wellbeing of over one billion people by 2020, Unilever is says it is nearly 40 percent of the way to reaching it.
Unilever notes its 'sustainable living brands' business case is being endorsed by the growing number of institutions moving capital into corporations that will help realize a low-carbon future: "[They are] becoming increasingly aware of the risks and opportunities of managing in a new economic ecosystem where the interdependencies are more complex and unpredictable".