Unilever reports on first year’s progress

Unilever has published a report on the progress it is making towards meeting its Unilever Sustainable Living Plan targets.

London/Rotterdam (April 24, 2012) – Unilever has published a report on the progress it is making towards meeting its Unilever Sustainable Living Plan targets. The plan, published in November 2010, broke new ground by committing to take responsibility for the company’s impacts right across the value chain, from the sourcing of raw materials all the way through to the consumer’s use of its products to cook, clean and wash.

As part of the update, Unilever announced that by the end of 2012 it will reach its target of 100% certified sustainable palm oil covered by Green Palm Certificates, a full three years ahead of schedule. 

Whilst this is strong progress, the company recognizes that the Green Palm Scheme is only a step along the road towards sustainable palm oil, not the end game. Although it will be even more difficult to achieve, Unilever has now set a new target of purchasing all its palm oil from certified traceable sources by 2020. This means it will be able to track all the certified oil it buys back to the plantation on which it was originally grown.

To help achieve this goal, it announced that it is in advanced stages of discussions with the Indonesian government for investing over €100m in a large processing plant for palm oil derivatives in Sumatra. This plant will not only cut back on transport and save money but it will make it easier to trace the sources of the palm oil used.

Unilever’s performance against its sustainable living plan targets fall into three categories:

1. Areas where we are making genuinely good progress, such as:

  • Sustainable sourcing – 24% of total agricultural raw materials now being sourced sustainably, versus 14% in 2010.
  • Nutrition – over 90% of Unilever’s leading spreads now contain less than one-third saturated fat.
  • Renewable energy now contributes 20% of Unilever’s total energy use. 100% of electricity purchased n Europe is now from renewable sources, and we have increased our use of biomass to fuel boilers in India and China.
  • Safe drinking water – 35 million people have gained access to safe drinking water from Pureit water purifier since 2005.

2. Areas where we have had to consider carefully how to reach our targets, but are now ready to scale up. These include health and hygiene: Lifebuoy soap’s hand washing programme reached 48 million people by the end of 2011, and new partnerships such as our ‘train the trainer’ approach in Indonesia will help us to go to the next level.

3. Areas where we are finding it difficult to make progress and will need to work with others to find solutions. This applies particularly to targets that require consumer behaviour change, such as reducing the use of heated water in showering and washing clothes, or encouraging people to eat foods with lower salt levels.

Unilever CEO, Paul Polman said:

“In a world where temperatures are rising, energy is costing more, sanitation is worsening and food supply is less secure, companies can no longer sit on the sidelines waiting for governments to take action. We have to see ourselves as part of the solution to these problems. In Unilever, we believe that our future success depends upon being able to decouple our growth from our environmental footprint, while at the same time increasing our positive social impacts.

“Many of our goals look as daunting now as they did when we announced them, but you have to set uncomfortable targets if you are to really change things. 

"Sustainable growth will be the only acceptable model of growth in the future, which is why we have put the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan at the heart of our business strategy. And far from being a hindrance to our progress, we are now seeing increasing evidence that it can drive business growth. Unilever grew well in 2011, but what is encouraging is that the brands which put sustainability at the centre of their propositions, like Lifebuoy soap or Persil/Omo Small & Mighty, grew faster than the average.

“It is also becoming ever clearer that we cannot tackle the big issues alone: much of our progress to date has come where we have worked with others. And at the end of the day, if we achieve our own sustainability targets but no one else follows, we will not have been truly successful.

"For that reason we are working with other organizations such as the Consumer Goods Forum, World Economic Forum, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, governments, NGOs and others to drive change. At Unilever we believe collaboration will become the only way of doing business in the future.”

For more information and the full first year progress report, please visit www.unilever.com/sustainable-living

About Unilever

Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of fast moving consumer goods with operations in over 100 countries and sales in 190. Consumers buy 170 billion Unilever packs around the world every year, and our products are used over two billion times a day. We have more than 171,000 employees, and generated annual sales of €46.5 billion in 2011. Working to create a better future every day, we help people feel good, look good and get more out of life with brands and services that are good for them and good for others. 

Our portfolio includes some of the world’s best known and most loved brands including thirteen €1 billion brands, and global leadership in most categories in which we operate. The portfolio features iconic brands such as: Knorr, Hellmann’s, Lipton, Dove, Vaseline, Persil, Cif, Marmite and Pot Noodle. Unilever has led the Food Producers sector in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Indexes for 13 consecutive years. 

We are included in the FTSE4Good Index Series and attained a top environmental score of 5, leading to inclusion in the FTSE4Good Environmental Leaders Europe 40 Index. In 2011 Unilever led the Climate Counts Company Scorecard and was named #1 in the list of Global Corporate Sustainability Leaders according to the latest survey findings from GlobeScan Inc. and SustainAbility Ltd.

Unilever Sustainable Living Plan

In November 2010 the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan was launched. Unilever publicly committed to a ten year journey towards sustainable growth, with around 60 specific targets embedding this new thinking into our business. What makes the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan different is that it applies right across the value chain. Unilever is taking responsibility not just for its own direct operations but for their suppliers, distributors and – crucially – for how consumers use brands like Dove, Knorr, Lipton, Lifebuoy and Pureit.

The plan sets out that by 2020 Unilever will:

  • help more than one billion people improve their health and well-being;
  • halve the environmental footprint of the making and use of our products;
  • source 100% of our agricultural raw materials sustainably.

For more information about Unilever and its brands, please visit www.unilever.com.

Safe Harbour

This announcement may contain forward-looking statements, including ‘forward-looking statements’ within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Words such as ‘expects’, ‘anticipates’, ‘intends’, ‘believes’ or the negative of these terms and other similar expressions of future performance or results, and their negatives, are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based upon current expectations and assumptions regarding anticipated developments and other factors affecting the Group. They are not historical facts, nor are they guarantees of future performance. Because these forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, there are important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements, including, among others, competitive pricing and activities, economic slowdown, industry consolidation, access to credit markets, recruitment levels, reputational risks, commodity prices, continued availability of raw materials, prioritisation of projects, consumption levels, costs, the ability to maintain and manage key customer relationships and supply chain sources, consumer demands, currency values, interest rates, the ability to integrate acquisitions and complete planned divestitures, the ability to complete planned restructuring activities, physical risks, environmental risks, the ability to manage regulatory, tax and legal matters and resolve pending matters within current estimates, legislative, fiscal and regulatory developments, political, economic and social conditions in the geographic markets where the Group operates and new or changed priorities of the Boards. Further details of potential risks and uncertainties affecting the Group are described in the Group’s filings with the London Stock Exchange, Euronext Amsterdam and the US Securities and Exchange Commission, including the Group’s Annual Report on Form 20-F for the year ended 31 December 2010. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this document. Except as required by any applicable law or regulation, the Group expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect any change in the Group’s expectations with regard thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any such statement is based.

Unilever PLC

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Unilever NV

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