Our latest progress report shows that we are delivering against the majority of the ambitious targets in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) – and issues a call for more collective action to tackle the biggest challenges facing the business, and the world.
Strong sustainability performance linked to growth
It highlights the ways we believe the USLP is creating value for our business as well as for society and the environment, by driving growth, building trust, reducing risk, and lowering costs. Sustainable Living Brands such as Knorr, Dove, Dirt is Good, Lipton and Hellmann's, which all make products directly linked to a sustainable purpose and which contribute to USLP goals, accounted for nearly half of Unilever's growth in 2015 – and grew faster than the rest of the business.
On track in our operations – but big challenges remain
The report showed strong performance against the sustainability targets within our direct control. We have helped more than 480 million people take action to improve their health and well-being, and enhanced people's livelihoods through employment, training, and advancing human rights.
We've also reduced the environmental impacts of our operations. Compared to 2008, in 2015 Unilever factories sent 97% less total waste for disposal, emitted 39% less CO2 from energy, and abstracted 37% less water per tonne of production.
But reducing the environmental impact of the consumer use of our products once they leave our factories has proven difficult. Although the waste associated with consumer disposal of our products has reduced by 29% since 2010, the water associated with consumers’ use of our products has only fallen by around 1%, and the greenhouse gas impact associated with consumers’ use has risen by around 6%.
Innovative approaches – and the need for collective action
We are adopting innovative strategies to address these issues. But changing consumer behaviour, alongside broader challenges including climate change and widening inequality, requires urgent collective action at a global level too. We are working with the global community to build on the progress made in 2015 through the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
"Enormous opportunities exist for those who commit to taking action..."
Describing 2015 as a 'remarkable year for humanity and the planet', Unilever CEO Paul Polman said that sustainable business models remained not just relevant, but essential.
He said: "Now entering its sixth year, the USLP is proving that there is no trade-off between sustainability and profitable growth. It is also helping us to save costs, fuel innovation and recruit and retain the best talent.
"In fact, enormous opportunities exist for those who commit to taking action. There is no business case for enduring poverty and runaway climate change."