Unilever reports on sustainable living plan progress
Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan is aimed at reducing brands’ environmental footprint and increasing their social impact while promoting positive revenue growth. The project seeks to measure and manage the impact of its products in nine areas, grouped into three broad goals, including improving health and wellbeing for more than 1 billion people, reducing environmental impact by one-half, and enhancing livelihood for millions.
The company recently released its annual Performance Summary for 2016, in which it states that 45% of its top 40 brands were considered sustainable last year, however those product lines were responsible for 60% of the company’s growth. That compares favorably to 2015, when 12 of 40 brands at Unilever were considered to have a strong social or environmental purpose and they accounted for 46% of the overall growth in the company. Of particular interest, those brands are not only contributing toward a greater percentage of Unilever’s profits, their rates of growth relative to other brands not on its sustainability list is significantly higher.
Unilever CEO Paul Polman contends that sustainability is one of the main drivers of profitability, and the company’s very survival as a stand-alone entity demands that it finds efficiencies to increase value and to differentiate itself from competitors in the minds of consumers. Earlier this year, Unilever rebuffed a $143-billion takeover bid from KraftHeinz.
Polman states that the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan strengthens brands and spurs innovation. Creating sustainable brands lowers costs in that it tightens the supply chain and reduces risk. With a greater demand from the public for goods that are ethically-sourced and leave a marginal environmental footprint, Polman says Unilever’s strategy also builds trust and commands consumer loyalty. He points to research the company sponsored showing over half of consumers buy (33%) or want to buy (21%) sustainably.