For the past ten years, we have been investing in sustainable agriculture to support our suppliers in adopting good practices. We have achieved tremendous progress but to really stop soil decline, preserve water resources, protect biodiversity, increase climate resilience and improve livelihoods, we know we need to do more.
This is why today we are announcing our Regenerative Agriculture Principles, a new approach to farming that works in harmony with nature to ensure the long-term viability and resilience of land.
As Dave Ingram, Unilever’s Chief Procurement Officer, says: “The ingredients for most Unilever products come from nature, so the future of our business is inextricably linked to the preservation and regeneration of natural environments. Initiatives like this do more than just benefit the planet. To be considered successful, they should also benefit and improve the livelihoods of our farmers, their families and surrounding communities, creating a cycle of prosperity on our journey to make sustainable living commonplace.”
Regenerative agriculture: taking things to a whole new level
In 2010, we introduced our Sustainable Agriculture Code, which has been the North Star for our sustainable sourcing programme and an important guide to sustainable farming for hundreds of thousands of suppliers, smallholders and farmers.
Building on that as a foundation, we are now adding a new layer of practices that aim to work with nature to regenerate it. Our Regenerative Agriculture Principles outlines the five priority areas we believe are in most urgent need of action and where we can achieve the biggest impact.
Putting the theory into action
To achieve the scale and pace of change we need to see, we will work with farmers, suppliers and partners on programmes across different geographies. We’ll prioritise our key crops – which include dairy, vegetables, grains, palm oil, soy, paper and board, coconut, cocoa and tea – because of their impact on land and their contribution to our greenhouse gas or human footprint. Here are just a few examples of programmes already underway.
Knorr is partnering with tomato supplier Agraz in Spain to help improve soil health with the use of cover crops and organic fertiliser and increase biodiversity in the landscape through the planting of native flora.
We’re also introducing more efficient irrigation in Agraz’s tomato fields.
In hot climates, irrigation is essential to ensure crops stay healthy and hydrated. But establishing how much water to use has always been difficult. Cutting-edge sensors and soil probes now let farmers know the exact amount of water necessary for the fruit to flourish. This enables the supplier to manage water use and make significant savings.
Less water and fewer emissions
Building on existing sustainable sourcing programmes, Knorr is working with US rice supplier Riviana to implement a suite of farming practices that enable farmers to grow rice while preserving water and decreasing methane emissions.
The water-saving practices we’re advancing reduce the time the soil is flooded which in turn reduces emissions.
The brand is partnering with the University of Arkansas to engage the farmers in the programme, and to create and measure impacts of regenerative practices on emissions and water capture.
Smallholder farmers manage around 40% of Indonesia's oil palm planted area, and as such our ability to empower them with regenerative agriculture practices is critical to delivering positive environmental outcomes and building supply chain resilience.
In Indonesia’s Riau province, we trained 1,800 independent smallholder farmers, together with our supplier PT Skip on good agricultural and regenerative practices, as well as no deforestation and better market access.
As a result of the project, the farmers have set up an association called Karya Serumpun, to continue activities within their community.
These outcomes will positively impact 10,000 hectares of land and improve the livelihoods of those involved in the project.
From ‘do less harm’ to ‘do more good’
We will continue to advocate for and lead the transformation of global supply chains towards more sustainable and regenerative models. This requires businesses like ours to work with governments and civil society to achieve sustainable development and make sustainable living commonplace.
As Hanneke Faber, President of our Foods & Refreshment division, says: “It is not enough for us to do less harm. We’re now seeking out opportunities to do more good. With our scale and influence, we have a crucial role to play in leading the systemic change our planet is crying out for.”