Green Blueprint: 3 Ways Unilever Does Sustainability Right

Conserving the world’s natural resources is good for business.

Global good conglomerate Unilever is the name behind household consumer brands like Lipton, Skippy, Ragu, Bertolli, Hellmann’s, Suave, Dove, Ben & Jerry’s and Breyers.

One year after announcing its Sustainability plan, Unilever reports reports positive progress on materials sourcing, waste reduction and energy efficiency.

Read Unilever’s April2 012 Sustainable Living Plan

How positive?


Since launching its ambitious Sustainable Living Plan in 2010, Unilever is buying more sustainable palm oil and cage-free eggs, putting less salt and fat in its tomato sauces and spreads, selling water purifiers to poor people in the global south and rolling out climate-friendly freezers for its ice cream.

Some highlights:

*24 percent of the company’s agricultural raw materials, including palm oil, soy beans and soy oil, paper and wood, tea, fruits and vegetables, were sustainable sourced last year.
*48 million people in poor countries were reached with Lifebuoy soap’s handwashing program aimed at curbing disease.
*100 percent of the electricity that Unilever buys in Europe comes from renewable sources.
*Pure-it, a water-purification technology, is expanding from India, where it already has reached 35 million people, to Bangladesh, Mexico and Brazil.

I see three key Sustainability elements that Unilever is getting right:

1. Visionary leadership in the person of CEO Paul Polman. As the article cites, ““We are showcasing a different business model that shows how you give to society and the environment rather than just taking from them.”

2. Accounting and planning for Climate Change costs (estimated at €200 million annually)

3. Taking responsibility for environmental degradation, with plans to build a $100 million palm-oil plant in Indonesia so that the company can ensure its palm oil comes from certified sustainable sources.  (Palm oil is in everything from soap to soup. The way you get a palm oil plantation is to cut down a forest. )