28 July 2016 – Australia must step up efforts to achieve a sustainable, inclusive and low-carbon economy to guarantee its future prosperity, said experts who gathered in Sydney to discuss how business, Government, academia and NGOs can work together to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).
Unilever’s ‘Mobilising Collective Action’ panel event, held to mark the fifth year progress report of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), brought together leading Australian experts from Westpac, Energy Australia, City of Sydney, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), The Climate Institute, Male Champions of Change, The Ethics Centre and Sustainable Business Australia, among others, to discuss practical ideas and tangible actions that will enable Australia to step up and maximise the opportunities the SDG’s present.
“At Unilever, we have seen there is no trade-off between profitable business growth and sustainability. In fact it is creating real value for Unilever, inspiring our consumers who are also seeking responsibility and meaning as well as high quality products at the right price.
Many Australian businesses are also taking a lead and recognising the economic case for action on key social and environmental issues,” said Clive Stiff, Chairman & CEO Unilever Australia & New Zealand.
The roundtable event focussed on five of the 17 global goals; Gender Equality, Life On Land, Climate Change, Responsible Consumption & Partnerships, where collaboration is needed to achieve transformative change on a large-scale. Sustainability experts called on business to focus their reach, expertise and resources on the areas where they can have the most positive impact.
“We are committed to playing our part to achieve the SDG’s and many of our own Unilever Sustainable Living Plan targets are helping create a virtuous cycle of sustainable and equitable growth for both business and society. However the changes needed to deliver the goals stretch way beyond Unilever or any single company, government or NGO,” added Mr Stiff.
It is this opportunity that galvanized an international group of business and public leaders, including Unilever CEO Paul Polman, to create the Global Commission on Business and Sustainable Development. Outputs from this Australian discussion will feed directly into the Commission’s work to quantify the compelling economic case for mainstreaming development. The Commission’s report will be released at the 2017 World Economic Forum.
As Unilever celebrated the halfway point in its ambitious plan to decouple its environmental footprint from its growth at the same time as increasing its positive social impact, the company is demonstrating how sustainability is helping drive growth, cut costs, mitigate risks and build trust with consumers and the community as a whole.
A detailed report on the progress made in Australia & New Zealand against the targets set out in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan and Unilever’s approach to transformational change is available online.
Speaking on gender diversity Elizabeth Broderick, Founder of Male Champions of Change said, “We must redefine what normal looks like in Australia and we must ask "50/50, if not, why not". We should ask for transparency about gender statistics at the point of making buying decisions and continue to educate Australians about gender parity by building the principles into education curriculums.”
Speaking on responsible consumption, Andrew Petersen, CEO of Sustainable Business Australia said, “We need to inspire and educate consumers to make more informed decisions and understand how the products they purchase can have a positive impact on the world. It is also really important that the Australian territories and states comes together on resource use and create a national plan rather than having individual strategies that don’t speak to each other.”
Trent Moy, Senior Consultant, The Ethics Centre, reported back on Partnerships and commented, “We need to re-think how we partner. From creating more visibility of existing partnerships and discussing what worked so others can learn, to taking the competitiveness out of partnerships and allowing business to politely steal from each other where it is beneficial to society.”
Speaking on Life on Land, Dermot O’Gorman, CEO of WWF said, “We need to start with traceability and certification, looking at the supply chain and solving the problem of how to make it business as usual across the whole sector. Then we must change consumer behaviour. Food waste might be the best starting point as it will be a critical issue.”
John Connor, CEO The Climate Institute said about climate change, “if they take leadership seriously business should use their individual and collective voice to explain the benefits and common ground in tackling climate change. They should support good policy development and highlight the costs of inaction as well as demonstrate transparency and work collectively with their supply chains to help make it happen.”
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Sustainability is creating value for our business
- Driving growth - Sustainability is supporting growth by deepening brand equity, opening up new markets, such as the safe drinking water market, and inspiring innovation. Our Sustainable Living brands demonstrate this.
- Lowering cost - By cutting waste and reducing use of energy, raw materials and natural resources, we create efficiencies and cut costs. Cost avoidance and savings ultimately help to improve our margins. Costs avoided through eco-production have exceeded €600 million since 2008. Our waste programme during this time has contributed to around €250m of costs avoided and created hundreds of jobs.
- Reducing risk - Sustainable ways of doing business help us mitigate risk across our operations. Operating sustainably helps us to future proof our supply chain against the risks associated with climate change and long-term sourcing of raw materials, making us less exposed to the volatility of resource prices.
- Building trust - Placing sustainability at the heart of our business model strengthens our relationships with stakeholders and helps us succeed as a business. It helps us maintain our value and relevance to consumers, whilst inspiring Unilever’s current and future employees. In 2015, we maintained our status as the Graduate Employer of Choice in the FMCG sector across 34 countries. Unilever is also named within the top three most sought-after employers globally on LinkedIn.
2015 Australian & New Zealand Sustainable Living Plan highlights:
- Our Australian Unilever offices, warehouses and factories joined the list of 600 Unilever sites globally sending zero non-hazardous waste to landfill
- We reduced C02 emissions per tonne of production in Australia by 31% compared to our 2008 baseline.
- Through our partnership with REDcycle we helped divert 1,262kg of soft plastics packaging such as our Streets Ice Cream wrappers and Continental packs away from landfill.
- We’ve reached over 500,000 young people in Australia and New Zealand through our ‘Dove BodyThink’ workshops.
- Domestos in partnership with UNICEF launched a campaign to drive awareness of the global sanitation crisis and the impact it has on children’s attendance at school (around 433 million school days missed each year).
- Through the Continental Sustainable Partnership initiative we have been working to help Australian & New Zealand farmers fast-track implementation of sustainable farming practices. All locally grown pumpkins, tomatoes and wheat in our Continental range now come from 100% sustainable sources.
- Women now make up 55% of our workforce, and 46% of senior managers.
About Unilever Australia and New Zealand
Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of Food, Home and Personal Care products with sales in over 190 countries and reaching 2 billion consumers a day. It has 169,000 employees and generated sales of €53.3 billion in 2015. Unilever employs more than 2,000 people, and has offices and manufacturing facilities in Australia and New Zealand.
Unilever has more than 400 brands found in homes around the world. In Australia and New Zealand, our name brands include Flora, Lipton, Bushells, Dove, Rexona, Lynx, Vaseline, Omo, Surf, Continental, Toni & Guy, Clear and Streets.
Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) commits to:
- Decoupling growth from environmental impact.
- Helping more than a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being.
- Enhancing the livelihoods of millions of people by 2020.
Unilever was ranked number one in its sector in the 2015 Dow Jones Sustainability Index. In the FTSE4Good Index, it achieved the highest environmental score of 5. It led the list of Global Corporate Sustainability Leaders in the 2015 GlobeScan/SustainAbility annual survey for the fifth year running, and in 2015 was ranked the most sustainable food and beverage company in Oxfam’s Behind the Brands Scorecard.
Unilever has been named in LinkedIn’s Top 3 most sought-after employers across all sectors and named Graduate Employer of Choice in Australia.