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Sustainability driving “stronger and faster growth” for Unilever

Paul Polman, chief executive at global consumer goods firm, Unilever, has revealed that the company’s ‘Sustainable Living’ brands are growing at twice the rate of the rest of the business.

Paul Polman, chief executive at global consumer goods firm, Unilever, has revealed that the company’s ‘Sustainable Living’ brands are growing at twice the rate of the rest of the business.

Following a review of its Sustainable Living Plan four years into implementation, Unilever has reported that it is making an increasingly positive impact on its business in terms of growth, cost efficiency and resilience for the future. 

At an event in London to share the findings with NGOs, government and stakeholders, chief executive, Paul Polman (pictured), announced that the group brands involved in the Sustainable Living Plan have grown significantly, accounting for half of Unilever’s total growth in 2014.

The plan is also driving significant cost savings, with more than €200 million (£143 million) saved in 2014 through manufacturing and logistics changes, efficiency measures and research and development. 

‘Transformational approach’

Polman is a well-known advocate of green business, having long identified climate change as a “significant barrier” to business strategy.

“In a volatile world of growing social inequality, rising population, development challenges and climate change, the need for businesses to adapt is clear, as are the benefits and opportunities. This calls for a transformational approach across the whole value chain if we are to continue to grow”, he said.

"Consumers are recognising this too; increasingly demanding responsible business and responsible brands. Our experience is that brands whose purpose and products respond to that demand - 'sustainable living brands' - are delivering stronger and faster growth. These brands accounted for half the company's growth in 2014 and grew at twice the rate of the rest of the business."

Supply chain management

Unilever is a leading advocate of working with suppliers to improve environmental performance, with chief supply chain officer, Pier Luigi Sigismondi, recently suggesting that ‘zero waste’ status will become a future qualifier for entering the company’s supply chain. 

By encouraging transformational change throughout its value chain, Unilever has already ensured that 55 per cent of its agricultural raw materials are sustainably sourced and has cut carbon emissions and water use by 37 per cent and 32 per cent respectively since 2008.

The company has also achieved zero non-hazardous waste to landfill across its factory network.