From advocacy to daily practice
Sustainability has been one of the more prominent buzzwords in the last 5 or so years—a word that has progressed from being plainly focused on environmentalism, to a whole new idea and way of life.
Richard Heinberg, a human ecology professor from New College of California mentions that sustainability “…is a concept that defines what is needed for our civilization to survive”—and rightfully so. Modern sustainability has seeped into different aspects of our lives, affecting how we make decisions in the way we cook our food, take which mode of transportation to work, or use how much water when taking a hot shower, all in consideration of how our actions today affect the future.
Sustainable development focuses on future generations, one that is holistic in nature and ever evolving. In this day and age, many sectors and communities are following the sustainability revolution—one of them being Unilever, which breeds and advocates its Sustainable Living Plan. It is a global advocacy that is being adopted by all of the company’s markets, integrating their sustainable practices into their various business functions, in order to achieve its three-fold vision of “doubling the size of our business, whilst reducing our environmental impact and increasing our positive social impact”.
The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan or USLP provides for the company’s 3 big goals by the end of 2020. In growing the business, it also aims to halve the environmental footprint of its products, source 100% of agricultural raw materials sustainably, and finally help more than 1 billion people improve their health and well-being in the process. These seem like hefty and challenging goals, but the progress that each chapter and division of the company worldwide has definitely contributed to the overall success of its mission.
Unilever Philippines is no exception. In order to achieve our targets, various USLP programs are being undertaken, primarily through the Perfect Community framework, a multifaceted strategy that incorporates USLP’s 3 main pillars into different sub-programs. The program provides for sanitation and nutrition education, skills training and job creation for individuals, and engages the whole community in reducing and reusing its waste, such as with a sachet redemption program that turns collected wrappers into road pavers.
It is important to note that these USLP programs are not just for the growth of the business, but also targeted towards the development and formation of the company’s employees. It has been highly encouraged by Chairman and CEO of Unilever Philippines, Rohit Jawa that all employees should partake in the different USLP programs, all the way up from the Leadership Team and even down to the company’s interns, as made possible by their Summer Internship immersion session for USLP.
The USLP immersion for the company’s young and bright interns have historically been in the form of a basic feeding program for a small community or school of kids ranging from 5-10 years old. In partnership with Knorr, the Makulay ang Buhay ng Batang Pinoy (MBBP) Program for this year allowed for further engagement of the interns to the community, reaching out not only to the kids, but to their mothers—those primarily in charge with overseeing the family’s health and well-being as a whole.
The immersion provided for the interns to interact with the mothers, and engage in a discussion not only to learn about family background, but also to check the impact and quantify results of the MBBP program to which their children are enrolled in. In order to stimulate the interns’ learning from their immersion, quality output was produced in the form of a research and reflective paper and presentation on their findings.
There was much to learn about the program from the focus group discussions that were conducted. As is expected and hoped for by MBBP, the nutrition and overall health of the children have indeed been positive. Their weight gain has been promising, and some mothers found their children looking forward to eating vegetables.
At the same time, the program found its benefits in educating the mothers as well—giving them knowledge about the wellness of their children, and even helped in budgeting practice for groceries. Overall, the program fostered a newfound sense of community for the mothers and children, one that shared in the value of health and well being of their families.
This project is just one of the many modes of immersion that USLP has to offer, all of which are interdisciplinary, and beneficial to the communities in more ways than one. These programs also provide for the mutual learning of both the practitioner and the community involved, such as in the case of the interns’ USLP session.
Similarly, a recent immersion of the Philippine Leadership Team (PHLT) engaged the company’s officers with Laguna-based tamarind farmers, wherein a one-on-one discussion was also held to deepen their understanding of how the company’s sustainable sourcing practices helped the livelihood of the community. It was enlightening for both parties to learn from each other, all while progressing the goals and objectives of the USLP program.
With all of the recent developments in the sustainable revolution, “making sustainable living commonplace” is no longer a far-off promise than what it seemed to be back in 2010 when Unilever first launched the groundwork for the Sustainable Living Plan. And it is definitely not just the company working towards sustainable development; the trend has rooted itself into our modern day society that it is uncommon for many individuals, be it top executives of the government or a five-year old preschooler, to practice something that works toward the collective growth of the entire community.
As we continue the question of “what can I do to contribute to our future”, we constantly challenge ourselves to integrate sustainable practices in our day-to-day activities, learning and helping others to use/reuse our belongings, manage productive work, and even balance our health and personal development.
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