Unilever to invest €1 billion to tackle climate change

The consumer goods company says its investment will be spread over a 10-year period.

Unilever has pledged to invest €1 billion (£900 million) over the next ten years in environmental projects to preserve resources for future generations.

Alan Jope, Unilever’s chief executive, said that while the world was rightly focused on the coronavirus pandemic and serious issues of inequality raised by the Black Lives Matter protests, the climate emergency should not be overlooked.

“Climate change, nature degradation, biodiversity decline, water scarcity – all these issues are interconnected, and we must address them all simultaneously. In doing so, we must also recognise that the climate crisis is not only an environmental emergency; it also has a terrible impact on lives and livelihoods. We, therefore, have a responsibility to help tackle the crisis: as a business, and through direct action by our brands,” he said.

The consumer goods giant, which owns more than 400 brands including Marmite, Ben & Jerry’s, Dove and Sure, plans to have no carbon emissions from its own operations, and to halve the GHG footprint of its products across the value chain, by 2030.

Unilever, which owns over 400 brands including Marmite, plans to have no carbon emissions from its operations. (Chris Lawton, Unsplash)

It added that as a response to the “scale and urgency” of the climate crisis, they are additionally committing to net zero emissions from all of its products by 2039, 11 years ahead of the 2050 Paris Agreement deadline. It highlights that would extend from the sourcing of its materials, up to the point of sale of its products in stores.

The company is also calling on all governments to set ambitious net-zero targets, along with emissions reduction targets.

In its plan, it set out a target of a deforestation-free supply chain by 2023 by using traceability, increasing local biodiversity and “empowering a new generation of farmers”.

Unilever also aims to preserve water by implementing water stewardship programmes for local communities in 100 locations by 2030. According to World Bank, 40% of the world’s population is affected by water scarcity, and more than 2.1 billion people consume unsafe drinking water.

To help reduce the impact on water and aquatic ecosystems, it aims to make its product formulations biodegradable by 2030.

Marc Engel, Unilever’s Chief Supply Chain Officer, said that it was the company’s “collective responsibility” to drive a reduction in greenhouse gases and that to have a healthy planet everyone needs to look after nature extending to “forests, soil biodiversity and water ecosystems”.

“In most parts of the world, the economic and social inclusion of farmers and smallholders in sustainable agricultural production is the single most important driver of change for halting deforestation, restoring forests and helping regenerate nature. In the end, they are the stewards of the land. We must, therefore, empower and work with a new generation of farmers and smallholders in order to make a step change in regenerating nature,” he said.

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