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Protect and Regenerate Nature

The rate at which our planet is deteriorating is alarming. Nature is in imminent danger, and time is running out. We need to transform the system completely, and we need to start now.

And so, we want to make sustainability commonplace by restoring the health of our planet, both in our supply chain and beyond.

Image of a lady farmer harvesting tea leaves

Since we use a variety of raw materials to make our products, it is essential that we secure a sustainable supply of these materials. Because the growth of our business, our farmers, our suppliers, people and the environment depend on it.

Several key crops and commodities such as palm oil, paper and board, soy, sugar, tea, dairy, rapeseed, cereals, vegetables, cocoa, herbal infusions and vanilla have been prioritised as they make up over two-thirds of our raw materials, and 73% of these were sustainably sourced in 2020.

The Unilever Sustainable Agriculture Code (SAC) and the Unilever Regenerative Agriculture Principles (RAPs) provide the basis for our sustainable sourcing programme.

Our Responsible Sourcing Policy

Following our Procurement Framework, every material we purchase is covered by our Responsible Sourcing Policy that applies to all suppliers.

While our framework and policy embody our commitment to conduct business with integrity, we are also making significant progress through partnerships.

Read more about Unilever’s policy.

Sustainable palm oil

As founding members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and major buyers of palm oil, we have a key role to play in transforming the industry.

In 2016, Unilever refreshed its Palm Oil Policy and brought forward its target from 2020 to 2019. We also stopped buying Green Palm certificates. Leveraging various industry and NGO partnerships to drive market transformation and traceability of the supply chain in India, our partnerships focus on commitments to the principles of no deforestation, no development on peatlands, and driving positive economic and social impact for people and communities.

Our policy principles include smallholder farmers and women. We commit to no exploitation of people or communities and maintaining transparency.

Sustainable paper and board

Our resources come from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified mills. This further supports our efforts to reduce the overall consumption of paper and board and utilise lower grammage paper.

Sustainable tea

Image of a lady tea farmer

About 56% of India’s tea production is trustea verified as of 2020 impacting 67k tea Small Holder Farmers (SHFs), accounting for about 32% of India’s tea SHFs and 610k tea workers of which around 60% are women.

In 2020 over 67% of tea in India procured for Unilever brands was sourced from sustainable sources.

Our brands such as Lipton and Brooke Bond Red Label give us a huge opportunity to really understand the tea industry and make a difference in the lives of the people who depend on it. Our commitments extend to nurturing and protecting the land for future generations so that they will continue to benefit.

To improve livelihoods in tea, through trustea we are ensuring that all legally mandated wages and benefits are paid, which are significant in improving the livelihoods of the plantation workers engaged in the tea industry. The impact of this is seen on a large scale in Bought Leaf Tea Factories as well. Equality and fair treatment of all workers without any gender bias, has contributed to raising the quality of life for the women workforce. Promoting a systematic grievance redressal mechanism also provides the workers with an assurance of getting fair treatment.

Additionally, in September 2019, Unilever published a list of all our global suppliers of black and green tea to help consumers understand where their tea comes from and make the tea industry more sustainable.

Trustea - Trustea is a multi-stakeholder program, locally developed and owned India sustainability tea code.

Sustainable fruits and vegetables

Securing a sustainable supply of fruits and vegetables is crucial for our business. Over 93% of the tomatoes used in Kissan Ketchup were locally and sustainably sourced from 10,000 farmers across India in 2020. The Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project, which began in 2012 between HUL and the Government of Maharashtra for sustainable sourcing of tomatoes, has become self-sustaining since 2015.

In 2019, HUL continued to provide farmers with a buy-back guarantee for their produce, along with knowledge and expertise in sustainable agriculture practices in tomato cultivation. This includes the latest agricultural techniques, irrigation practices and recommendations of the right type of seeds. New tomato varietals were deployed in 2019 (Varietal Name: UG 101) on 500 acres which have higher yield potential and take lesser time (90 days) to harvest vs traditional varieties (150-180 days). The higher colour of tomatoes fetch better prices for the farmers and helps enhance farmer realisations.

Globally, we buy a range of high-quality fruits and vegetables from about 500 suppliers, who in turn buy from around 50,000 growers and farmers. Our current partnerships are designed to drive sustainable change so that our expert buyers are able to seek the best quality ingredients from growers around the world.

For example, Unilever helped establish the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform, which helps us identify links and agree on common standards with other fast-moving consumer goods companies who buy from the same suppliers.

Water Stewardship

Our goal is to create a future where everyone has access to a safe water supply. This calls for innovative and collective action to preserve and protect our water resources.

Climate change is impacting water quality and availability across the globe. With billions of people experiencing high water stress, the gap between water availability and water use is only getting wider.

Our Climate and Nature goals explain how we plan on tackling water security. And so, right from our public-private partnerships that are needed to address water security for our consumers, to the collective action in the communities around our factories, and the innovations needed in our ingredients, we have kept collaborative action at the front and center.

Reducing water abstracted by manufacturing sites

Climate change is putting an immense strain on water, food, and other natural resources. Therefore, we aim to reduce our carbon footprints by reducing the water abstracted via manufacturing sites.

Our manufacturing operations have witnessed a 54% reduction in water usage (cubic meter per ton of production) as compared to the 2008 baseline. Concentrating on reducing freshwater abstraction, implementing captive rainwater harvesting, and maximising the use of RO plants, has significantly contributed to the reduction of water in our manufacturing processes.

Reducing water in agriculture

Image of a lady transplanting crops

We use the Unilever Sustainable Agriculture Code (USAC) to guide our farmers on ways to reduce water usage in agriculture. To sustainably source tomatoes, we have also begun trials to use 'mulching', a technique that significantly helps reduce water usage.

The Hindustan Unilever Foundation

The Hindustan Unilever Foundation (HUF) was set up in 2010 to support and amplify scalable solutions that can help address India’s water challenges – specifically for rural communities that intersect with agriculture. HUF established its ‘Water for Public Good’ programme that is anchored in the belief that water is a common good and must be governed by citizen communities. The aim was to catalyse effective solutions to India’s water challenges involving the government, communities, experts, and mission-based organisations.

The Foundation’s programmes currently reach 11,500 villages in 59 districts in 10 states and 2 union territories across India in partnership with 19 NGO partners and multiple co-founders. HUF also supports several knowledge initiatives in water conservation and governance. Across diverse river basins and hydrogeological zones, three core pillars define HUF’s work with rural communities:

  • Know more: Build water numeracy to help quantify availability, budget, and allocate water use
  • Save more: Promote scientific citizen-led water conservation and governance efforts
  • Use less: Drive behaviour change for responsible water use in agriculture

Through HUF’s initiatives, the cumulative and collective achievements delivered through partnered programmes in 2019-2020 include a water potential of over 1.3 trillion litres through improved supply and demand water management, an additional 1 million tonnes of agricultural and biomass production, and over 30 million person-days of employment. To underscore the importance of the water potential created by HUF; one billion litres of water can meet the drinking water needs of over 8 lakhs adults for an entire year.

Initiatives that are making a difference

Project Suvidha

A first-of-its-kind urban water, hygiene, and sanitation community centre was set up in one of Mumbai’s largest slum areas – Chiragnagar, Ghatkopar. The centre provides water, sanitation, laundry services, and handwashing as well as shower facilities, at significantly lower than market rates. Adopting the principles of circular economy to reduce the use of water, fresh water gets used for activities that concern personal hygiene, and the wastewater generated from this, is utilised for flushing toilets.

After the successful launch of the first centre, four more centres were launched in Malad Malvani, Govandi, Ambewadi in Andheri and Kurla. Four out of the five centres have been set up in partnership with HSBC and the support of the BMC and on ground partners such as United Way Mumbai (NGO) & Pratha Samajik Sanstha (a community-based organization). Via the five centres, over 25 million litres of water have been saved and recycled.

Unilever is setting ambitious targets and we’re stepping up our efforts to reach our goal to implement water stewardship programmes in 100 of our most water-stressed areas by 2030. But we cannot do this alone and hence, working with others to address water scarcity challenges is the need of the hour.

Project Prabhat

Project Prabhat is HUL’s sustainable community development initiative that builds on local community needs at a grassroots level, in line with India’s development agenda and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By doing so, it is contributing to a fairer and more socially inclusive world, while using HUL’s scale for good. It ultimately aims to create sustainable communities in and around HUL sites through focused interventions on Economic Empowerment (skilling, entrepreneurship and value chain), Environmental Sustainability (water conservation, waste management and climate adaptation), Health (nutrition, hygiene, sanitation and WASH) and Education (basic infrastructure).

During Covid-19, more than 1.3 million people across 240 locations benefitted from the distribution of relief kits in 2020, including Lifebuoy soaps, grocery kits and food packets. Prabhat has reached out to about 6 million people across 19 states and 2 union territories since its inception in 2013.

We also work with communities to tackle water quality and supply risks. By working with the farmers around HUL factories, Project Prabhat helps manage the demand and supply of water that gets used in agricultural practices. And by mapping the community water resources to provide innovative water conservation techniques, this programme helps collectively build robust water structures. Strengthening the water governance at the village level through Paani Panchayats has benefitted 21,471 farmers and a total of over 56 billion litres of water has been conserved and assured so far.

Combined with our learnings from this programme, best practices of our peers and adopting the Alliance for Water Stewardship Standard, we’re all set to take collective action on local water resources to the next level.