Unilever strives for sustainability

The CPG co has changed its entire business model in order to meet the objectives set forth in its Sustainable Living Plan.

In November 2010, Unilever set the goal of sustainably sourcing 100% of its agricultural materials, halving the environmental impact of its products and helping more than one billion people improve their health and well-being by 2020 through its Sustainable Living Plan.

At the end of April, Unilever Canada’s president and CEO, John LeBoutillier, presented an update on Canada’s progress over the past year, held at Toronto’s Evergreen Brickworks. For a sense of its eco impact, consider this: by partnering with Bullfrog Power the company became the single largest purchaser of green electricity in Canada, drawing 90% of its energy from renewable sources. Unilever has also increased the sustainable sourcing of raw agricultural materials from 14% to 24% over the past 12 months and was recently honoured with the 2012 GLOBE Corporate Award for Environmental Excellence.

Through the help of Greenpeace and the United Nations Environmental Programme, Unilever was able to persuade the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate climate-friendly hydrocarbons. “We will soon be introducing ice cream cabinets that use this environmental measure,” says Sharon MacLeod, VP marketing, Unilever Canada. The company is also working on a plan to incorporate free-run eggs into all Hellmann’s mayonnaise products.

Unilever has set the bar by changing its entire business model to achieve these sustainable initiatives by 2020. “I think we are going to see more brands and companies follow suit because sustainability is a topic that can’t be ignored,” says MacLeod. “Ad agencies need to start thinking this way, especially when you see those who are integrating sustainability into their practice with initiatives like JWT Ethos and Ogilvy Earth.”