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Unilever's purpose pays off

News, 06 May 2015

LONDON: FMCG giant Unilever intends to bring more of its brands into its "sustainable living" portfolio as it says the brands already there are growing twice as fast as the rest and are contributing to half of overall business growth.

It defines sustainable living brands as those which can contribute to business growth while reducing the company's environmental footprint and increasing positive social impact.

These include Dove personal care products and Ben & Jerry's ice cream, which are now about to be joined by venerable laundry brands like Omo, Persil and Sunlight as well as skincare brand Vaseline.

"In a volatile world of growing social inequality, rising population, development challenges and climate change, the need for businesses to adapt is clear, as are the benefits and opportunities," declared CEO Paul Polman, in remarks reported by Marketing Week.

"Our experience is that brands whose purpose and products respond to that demand – 'sustainable living brands' – are delivering stronger and faster growth," he added.

The latest moves, announced as part of a four-year review of the company's Sustainable Living Plan first set out in 2010, will see Omo and Persil become involved in the "Preparing Children for Tomorrow" initiative to help children with access to education.

Sunlight will further develop a partnership with Oxfam aimed at cutting the time women in developing countries spend finding and carrying clean water.

And Vaseline is to tie up with Direct Relief, an international NGO, to help heal the skin of people living in vulnerable situations.

The company claimed to have "enhanced the livelihoods of over 1 million people so far", including training 800,000 smallholder farmers and helping 238,000 women gain access to training, support and skills.

The review further revealed that 55% of Unilever's agricultural raw materials are now sourced sustainably and that a target of sending zero non-hazardous waste to landfill across its factory network had been achieved, while it was also "making significant reductions in CO2 from energy and water in manufacturing".

Data sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff