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Brand & Business: Unilever’s brands will collectively invest €1 billion in a new dedicated Climate & Nature Fund to preserve resources for future generations

LONDON, UK – Unilever set out a new range of measures and commitments designed to improve the health of the planet by taking even more decisive action to fight climate change. Unilever will achieve Net Zero emissions from all products by 2039. The brand will also empower, and work with, a new generation of farmers and smallholders, driving programs to protect and restore forests, soil and biodiversity; and will work with governments and other organisations to improve access to water for communities in water-stressed areas.

Unilever’s brands will collectively invest €1 billion in a new dedicated Climate & Nature Fund. This will be used over the next ten years to take decisive action, with projects likely to include landscape restoration, reforestation, carbon sequestration, wildlife protection and water preservation. The new initiatives will build on the great work that is already underway, such as Ben & Jerry’s initiative to reduce GHG emissions from dairy farms; Seventh Generation advocating for clean energy for all; and Knorr supporting farmers to grow food more sustainably.

Alan Jope, Unilever CEO, explains: “While the world is dealing with the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and grappling with serious issues of inequality, we can’t let ourselves forget that the climate crisis is still a threat to all of us. Climate change, nature degradation, biodiversity decline, water scarcity – all these issues are interconnected, and we must address them all simultaneously. In doing so, we must also recognise that the climate crisis is not only an environmental emergency; it also has a terrible impact on lives and livelihoods. We, therefore, have a responsibility to help tackle the crisis: as a business, and through direct action by our brands.”

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Unilever’s existing science-based targets are: to have no carbon emissions from operations, and to halve the GHG footprint of products across the value chain, by 2030. They are additionally committing to net zero emissions from all their products by 2039.

The group has been leading the industry on sustainable sourcing practices for over a decade, 89% of forest-related commodities are certified as sustainably sourced to globally recognised standards. It plans to achieve a deforestation-free supply chain by 2023. To do this, it will increase traceability and transparency by using emerging digital technologies – such as satellite monitoring, geolocation tracking and blockchain – accelerating smallholder inclusion and changing their approach to derivates sourcing.

In addition to continuing to drive sustainable sourcing and an end to deforestation, Unilever is setting out to help regenerate nature: increasing local biodiversity, restoring soil health, and preserving water conservation and access.

It is also introducing a pioneering Regenerative Agriculture Code for all suppliers. The new code will build on the existing Sustainable Agriculture Code, and it will include details on farming practices that help rebuild critical resources. Moreover, this will make the Regenerative Agriculture Code available to any organisation that may find it useful – with the goal of driving change throughout the industry.

Unilever will also step up direct efforts to preserve water. Already, 40% of the world’s population is affected by water scarcity, and more than 2.1 billion people consume unsafe drinking water. Unilever will implement water stewardship programmes for local communities in 100 locations by 2030.

Unilever will also join the 2030 Water Resources Group, a multi-stakeholder platform hosted by the World Bank, to contribute to transformative change and building resilience in water management in key water-stressed markets, such as India, Brazil, South Africa, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Marc Engel, Unilever Chief Supply Chain Officer, explains: “Our collective responsibility in tackling the climate crisis is to drive an absolute reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, not simply focus on offsetting – and we have the scale and determination to make it happen. But this is not enough. If we want to have a healthy planet long into the future, we must also look after nature: forests, soil biodiversity and water ecosystems. In most parts of the world, the economic and social inclusion of farmers and smallholders in sustainable agricultural production is the single most important driver of change for halting deforestation, restoring forests and helping regenerate nature. In the end, they are the stewards of the land. We must, therefore, empower and work with a new generation of farmers and smallholders in order to make a step change in regenerating nature.”

Alan Jope concludes: “The planet is in crisis, and we must take decisive action to stop the damage, and to restore its health. Last year, we set out a plan to tackle perhaps the most visible environmental issue we have in the consumer goods industry: plastic packaging. We set ourselves new and stretching targets that include halving our use of virgin plastic, and helping collect and process more plastic packaging than we sell. While it’s critical to address the impact that our products have at the end of their life, it’s just as important to continue to look at the impact they have on the planet at the start of their life – in the sourcing of materials – as well as in their manufacture and transport. We will reduce the impact that our products and our operations have on the environment, and we will do our part to bring the planet back to health.”

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