Multinational consumer goods company Unilever has announced creation of a new Climate & Nature Fund with a commitment to invest $1.1 Billion USD across all brands over the next ten years.
The new range of measures, announced 15 June, is described as being designed to improve health of the planet through decisive action to fight climate change, and protect and regenerate nature. Programmes will be directed at landscape restoration, reforestation, carbon sequestration, wildlife protection and water preservation. Unilever intends to work with stakeholders and governments and to improve access to water, especially in water-stressed areas.
The company has also undertaken to “step up efforts to preserve water” to include implementation of water stewardship programmes for local communities in 100 locations over the ten year period. These efforts will focus on water quality and supply risks near factory sites, globally, but will address local farmer and community access to water. This model will partner with key suppliers who also participate in similar efforts to ensure local access.
As part of the new initiatives in the water sector, Unilever has announced that it will join the 2030 Water Resources Group, a multi-stakeholder platform, to contribute to transformative change and building resilience in water management in key water-stressed markets, such as India, Brazil, South Africa, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Announcing the programmes Alan Jope, Unilever CEO, said “While the world is dealing with the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and grappling with serious issues of inequality, 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 also 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.”
The new commitments are based on fighting the climate crisis by addressing Unilever’s own carbon emissions, starting with halving their greenhouse gas footprint by 2030 and committing to net zero emissions throughout the value chain from all products by 2039. That effort will be supplemented by sustainable sourcing practices and by using satellite monitoring and geolocation tracking to verify sustainably sourced forest-related commodities.
On the “micro-level”, Unilever intends to help regenerate nature through programmes that serve to increase biodiversity, restore soil health, and preserve water conservation and access. Unilever will look to farmers and smallholders who share the same objectives in protecting and regenerating farm environment. The commitment includes a drive to “secure legal land rights, access to finance and financial inclusion and development of restorative practices. This integrated approach will improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and give them leverage to drive the regeneration of nature.”
Unilever also intends to advance research into more biodegradable formulations for its products, in order to limit impact on water and aquatic ecosystems.
Marc Engel, Unilever Chief Supply Chain Officer, said “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. 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.”