Five months ago, most people hadn’t even heard of Covid-19. But virtually overnight, all attention turned to this invisible yet deadly disease. And rightly so. Lives were – are – at stake.
In doing so, the focus shifted from a far greater and ever-present threat to people and the planet: the climate and nature crisis.
These haven’t gone away while the world has been dealing with Covid-19. Far from it. They are deepening by the day.
So, we must all double-down on our efforts. Because, while time is not on our side, we do have a window in which to act.
That’s why, today, we are announcing a new set of actions and commitments designed to improve the health of the planet:
- We are committing to net zero emissions from all our products by 2039 – from the sourcing of the materials we use, up to the point of sale of our products.
- We are challenging ourselves to even higher standards to protect high carbon ecosystems like forests, peatlands and tropical rainforests, and we will have a deforestation-free supply chain by 2023.
- We will empower a new generation of farmers and smallholders to protect and regenerate their environment.
- We will introduce a new Regenerative Agriculture Code for all our suppliers, which builds on our existing Sustainable Agriculture Code.
- We will implement water stewardship programmes to 100 locations in water-stressed areas by 2030 and join the 2030 Water Resources Group partnership to scale water resilience programmes.
- Unilever’s brands will collectively invest €1 billion in a new Climate & Nature Fund, which will be used over the next ten years to take meaningful and decisive action.
Photo by Unilever employee, Ina Blatt
We’re being even bolder, so we can go even further
We are recognised for setting ourselves ambitious plans. Last month, we celebrated ten years of our Sustainable Living Plan. From this, we’ve learned a great deal about what works and what doesn’t.
And last year, we announced bold targets to keep plastic in the circular economy – where it is reused, recycled or composted – and stop it from ever finding its way into the environment.
Our new commitments are the next step. And they go further than we’ve ever gone before.
“While the world is dealing with the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and grappling with serious issues of inequality,” says Unilever CEO Alan Jope, “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 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.”
Accelerating action through a new Climate & Nature Fund
To accelerate action, our brands will collectively invest €1 billion in a new dedicated Climate & Nature Fund, which they will use over the next ten years on initiatives that protect and improve the health of the planet. These could include projects that restore landscapes, reduce carbon emissions, or reforest and reinstate wildlife habitats.
This will build on all the great work we’re already doing. For example, Ben & Jerry’s reducing greenhouse gas emissions from dairy farms, Seventh Generation advocating for clean energy for all and Knorr supporting farmers to grow food more sustainably.
“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,” explains Marc Engel, Unilever Chief Supply Chain Officer. “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.”
Seventh Generation joined friends from the Sierra Club and Climate Parents in the 2018 Rise for Climate March in San Francisco
€1 bn invested in a new dedicated Climate & Nature Fund
Bringing the planet back to health
The global response to Covid-19 has given us a taste of what fundamental transformation can look like. We’ve seen how much dramatic change we can drive when we understand what’s at stake and when people connect with what they really value.
While we continue to fight the pandemic, we must intensify and accelerate our efforts to tackle the two biggest challenges we face today: the climate crisis and social inequality. And it requires everyone. Not just government, businesses and NGOs. But every global citizen.
If you care about human development and protecting the earth’s resources, you need to care about a serious response to climate change.
Through our new commitments, we want to do even more to help restore the health of the natural world. And if anyone thinks that isn’t a worthwhile ambition, we’d just ask them this…
What planet are you on?