Today, Unilever set out a new range of measures and commitments designed to improve the health of the planet by taking even more decisive action to fight climate change. Building on our existing science-based targets to have no carbon emissions from our own operations, and to halve the green-house (GHG) footprint of products across the value chain by 2030, Unilever has announced we will achieve net zero emissions from all products by 2039 – from the sourcing of materials, up to the point of sale in store.
To accelerate action, Unilever’s brands will collectively invest €1 billion (AUD$1.89 billion) in a new dedicated Climate and Nature Fund. This will be used over the next ten years to take drive meaningful sustainability action, and build on the work that is already underway, such as Ben & Jerry’s initiative to reduce GHG emissions from dairy farms; Seventh Generation’s advocacy for clean energy for all; and Continental’s support of farmers to grow food more sustainably.
To achieve net zero emissions from all our products 11 years ahead of the 2050 Paris Agreement deadline, Unilever must work jointly with our partners across our value chain, to collectively drive lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions. We will, therefore, prioritise building partnerships with our suppliers who have set and committed to their own science-based targets.
Unilever believes that transparency about carbon footprint will be an accelerator in the global race to zero emissions, and it is our ambition to communicate the carbon footprint of every product we sell. To do this, we will set up a system for our suppliers to declare, on each invoice, the carbon footprint of the goods and services provided; and we will create partnerships with other businesses and organisations to standardise data collection, sharing and communication.
Nicky Sparshott, CEO of Unilever Australia and New Zealand said: “The coronavirus outbreak is a stark reminder of the fragility of our economic system. The ongoing climate crisis is another clear threat to our shared stability, and its impacts are just as complex and challenging to mitigate.
“Businesses and governments across Australia have demonstrated their ability and willingness to step up at this critical moment and pull together to protect our communities. We need to continue working together to tackle the impacts of the coronavirus, whilst also setting our economy on a course to a more resilient, zero-carbon future that leaves no-one behind.”
Unilever Australia has partnered with WWF Australia in calling on leaders to make Australia the world’s leading exporter of renewable energy by 2030. A new EY report commissioned by WWF – Australian renewable export COVID-19 recovery package - found an economic recovery based on renewables would boost local manufacturing, grow existing sectors, unlock new industries and 100,000 jobs, increase exports, reskill our workforce, and reduce carbon pollution. The report also revealed that every dollar of stimulus spent on clean projects generates nearly three times as many jobs per dollar than investment in fossil fuel projects.
Ms Sparshott continued: “As our Government prepares to unleash some of the biggest stimulus packages Australia has ever seen, there is an incredible opportunity to use this moment of crisis and renewal to galvanise a more sustainable and future facing economy. Beyond short-term emergency measures, long-term economic stimulus packages must put climate action at their core and build a better future - one that ensures clean air, more jobs and a healthy, safe environment. “We need to transition away from high-carbon pathways, and public spending must align with the most ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement - limiting global warming to a maximum of 1.5ºC and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest.
In January 2020, Unilever Australia joined Unilever globally in switching to 100% renewable electricity to power all of our operations, well ahead of our end-2020 target. The majority of Unilever’s renewable electricity supply is met through a five-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with energy retailer Red Energy, which directly supports a number of wind and solar farms across NSW, Victoria & South Australia. The remainder is covered by purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates.
As a result of making this switch, Unilever will reduce its greenhouse emissions by about 30,840 tonnes of CO2, each year. This is equivalent to the emissions generated by powering more than 3,600 Australian homes or 6,600 cars annually.
Ms Sparshott explained: “Our switch to renewable electricity is not only good for the environment, but it also makes good business sense by delivering a combination of flexibility, cost savings and certainty on energy costs. It also gives our consumers reassurance that they are purchasing sustainably produced products, for which demand is increasingly growing.
“This local milestone demonstrates how we are decoupling our growth from our environmental impact. But there is still more to be done and we recognise the ongoing urgency of addressing climate change, which is why we have set new actions to accelerate change.”
Ms Sparshott said: “The race to zero must be a collective effort, and business alone cannot drive the transition at the speed that is required. Instead, it requires coordinated action by multiple organisations from across all sectors. Nothing is more powerful than businesses demonstrating to governments that accelerated progress in de-carbonising the economy is possible. We’re doing this through ambitious targets within our own operations and we are also working in partnership with others to scale up action around the world.”
Alan Jope, Unilever global CEO 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.”