London/Rotterdam—Unilever has set out a new range of measures and commitments designed to improve the health of the planet by taking more decisive action to fight climate change, according to a press release.

The top goal: Unilever will achieve Net Zero emissions from all products by 2039. The company also plans to work with a new generation of farmers and smallholders, driving programs to protect and restore forests, soil, and biodiversity, and to work with governments and other organizations to improve access to water for those in water-stressed areas.

Alan Jope, Unilever CEO, explained in the press release: “While the world is dealing with the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and grappling with serious issues of inequality, we can’t let ourselves forget that the climate crisis is still a threat to all of us. 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 recognize 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.”

Unilever’s brands will collectively invest €1 billion (approximately $1.12 billion) in a new Climate & Nature fund. This money will be used over the next ten years to fund projects which will further the goal of fighting climate change. Those projects will likely include landscape restoration, reforestation, carbon sequestration, wildlife protection, and water preservation, the release says.

Unilever will be working with partners across the value chain to collectively lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions. To this end, the company will prioritize partnerships with suppliers who have already set and committed to their own science-based targets. Unilever will set up a system for suppliers to declare on each invoice the carbon footprint of the goods and services provided, and will partner with other businesses and organizations to standardize data collection, sharing, and communication.

Unilever calls on all governments to set net-zero targets, as well as short-term emissions reduction targets, supported by policy frameworks such as carbon pricing.

These initiatives will build on work already underway, such as Ben & Jerry’s initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from dairy farms; Seventh Generation advocating for clean energy for all; and Knorr supporting farmers to help them grow food more sustainably.
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Other initiatives include:
  • Unilever will achieve a deforestation-free supply chain by 2023
  • The company will introduce a Regenerative Agriculture Code for all suppliers, which will be available to any organization that may find it useful.
  • Unilever will implement water stewardship programs for local communities in 100 locations by 2030, and will join the 2030 Water Resources Group to contribute to transformative change to water-stressed markets.
  • Unilever aims to make their product formulations biodegradable by 2030.
Marc Engel, Unilever Chief Supply Chain Officer, explained in the press release: “Our collective responsibility in tackling the climate crisis is to drive an absolute reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, not simply focus on offsetting – and we have the scale and determination to make it happen. But this is not enough. If we want to have a healthy planet long into the future, we must also look after nature: 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.”

Jope concluded: “The planet is in crisis, and we must take decisive action to stop the damage, and to restore its health. Last year, we set out a plan to tackle perhaps the most visible environmental issue we have in the consumer goods industry: plastic packaging. We set ourselves new and stretching targets that include halving our use of virgin plastic, and helping collect and process more plastic packaging than we sell. While it’s critical to address the impact that our products have at the end of their life, it’s just as important to continue to look at the impact they have on the planet at the start of their life – in the sourcing of materials – as well as in their manufacture and transport. We will reduce the impact that our products and our operations have on the environment, and we will do our part to bring the planet back to health.”