Our 400+ household-name brands and huge global reach give us a unique opportunity to create positive change in the world and to achieve our purpose of making sustainable living commonplace. As 2019 draws to a close, we thought we’d look back over the year to see how that vision has been turned into real, tangible action. So grab a cuppa and enjoy reading about a few of the many ways we made a difference.
1. We ramped up our efforts to reduce plastic waste
Plastic is crucial for the safe and efficient distribution of our products, and it has a lower carbon footprint than many alternative materials. It has its place. But that place is not littering our streets, rivers and oceans. So we upped our game, committing to halve our use of virgin plastic in our packaging, and collect and process more plastic packaging than we sell… all by 2025. As part of that, we’re continuing to experiment and innovate with refill and reuse solutions, and rolling out more 100% recycled packaging. Dove made a big announcement on this in October.
2. We made some big moves to help tackle the climate crisis
In September, we passed an important milestone, with all our factories, offices, R&D facilities, data centres, warehouses and distribution centres – across Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America – now being powered by 100% renewable grid electricity. This marked a significant step towards our target to become a carbon neutral company before 2030. We also made progress towards our goal of cutting our logistics carbon emissions by 40% through smarter planning, alternative fuels and partnerships with tech start-ups.
3. We stood up for women’s and girl’s empowerment
Dove and UNICEF joined forces to educate 10 million more young people on self-esteem and body confidence, to help them fulfil their potential. Since its inception in 2004, the Dove Self-Esteem Project has reached over 35 million young people across 140 countries. Sunsilk has also been busy this year. Inspiring girls to dream of a future full of possibility, the brand supported the ‘Explore More’ education programme in Thailand and Pakistan, set up the ‘Together We Rock’ platform in Brazil and launched its ‘Rethink Pink’ campaign in Argentina, featuring strong female role models.
4. We used our voice to push for equality
Hindustan Unilever (HUL) joined in the country’s first Pride campaign, which included a two-month-long drive to create awareness and nudge the culture in the workplace. This campaign was part of our global push to create a truly inclusive work environment for people with diverse genders and orientations.
We continued our work to make Unilever more inclusive of people with a disability. We also ran initiatives to help refugees integrate, develop skills and get back into work. This year, the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Academy helped refugees in the UK, the Netherland and Germany find their feet economically with entrepreneurship training, mentoring and part-time employment.
5. We got tasty with food and food waste
Just a few weeks ago, we threw open the doors to Hive, our new, state-of-the-art innovation hub in the Netherlands where we will collaborate and co-create to turn bright ideas into the healthy, sustainable foods of the future. We continued our work to develop more plant-based foods and even partnered with Burger King to launch the plant-based Rebel Whopper powered by The Vegetarian Butcher. And since a third of all food that’s produced globally gets wasted, we came up with some more ingenious ways of working with suppliers, restaurants and consumers to help reduce that unacceptable statistic.
6. We continued our push for global access to safe, clean sanitation
Celebrating sanitation may sound like a strange thing to do, but since two-thirds of people on the planet lack access to decent sanitation, we can’t underestimate its value. On World Toilet Day we told the stories of sanitation superheroes who are making clean toilets their mission. Our Domestos brand continues to spearhead Unilever’s hugely successful efforts, and in partnership with UNICEF, we have so far helped over 16 million people. And on a related note, Global Handwashing Day was even more special this year, as we shared the news that Lifebuoy has improved the handwashing behaviours of 1 billion people.
7. We smashed a few more stereotypes
It’s been three years since we announced our pledge to unstereotype our advertising. Since then we’ve been working on doing so across every brand and in every one of our markets. More of our campaigns this year sought to defy outdated and harmful cultural norms and instead were underpinned by inclusive, diverse and progressive portrayals of people. In May, Dove launched Project #ShowUs, a disruptive new partnership to shatter stereotypes. This is an image library created and curated exclusively by women, female-identifying and non-binary individuals. Also, Dove Men+Care tied up with Promundo to encourage and promote paternity leave.
8. We put our weight behind biodiversity and soil protection
This year, the business community increasingly got behind the global biodiversity agenda, fuelled in part by the Our Planet: Our Business documentary. But this is something we’ve been working on for some time. In fact, each year Knorr co-invests €1 million with our suppliers and farmers through the Knorr Partnership Fund. This money helps finance sustainable agriculture projects, many of which are focused on biodiversity.
On a smaller scale, there was a buzz around our office in southern Poland, where employee Agnieszka Przybyl is promoting urban beekeeping. And when it comes to protecting soil, we’re working with soy farmers and our soy oil suppliers to increase the use of cover crops. These help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and prevent erosion.
9. We focused our minds on mental health
Millennials have grown up on social media with its potential to connect. Yet they’ve been found to be the loneliest generation of all. And that’s not just a ‘soft’ health concern – it can be as bad for you as a packet of cigarettes a day. Lipton is helping to address the problem.
Tea’s ability to give people a reason to have a conversation lies at the heart of Lipton’s newly launched brand purpose to awaken the world to quality connections and fight against hidden loneliness. Alongside mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, loneliness can impact sleep quality, reasoning and productivity.
10. We got even more transparent with tea
In September, we published a full list of our global tea suppliers. This move is designed to further increase transparency in our supply chain and boost our ongoing efforts to transform the entire industry. As part of this, we created an interactive map that highlights some of the social programmes we are leading on the ground with NGOs and supplier partners. These programmes aim to enhance the livelihoods and wellbeing of local workers, farmers and their families. And it’s an area where we can have huge impact. As you’d expect from the world’s largest tea company.