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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.

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Image of a lady farmer harvesting tea leaves

We use many different raw materials to make our products – and millions of people play an important role in providing them. Securing a sustainable supply of these materials is fundamental to the future growth of our business and achieving our ambition to deliver positive impact.

Our approach to sustainable and regenerative sourcing has four main parts:

  • sustainably sourcing the highest standards of raw materials from our network of suppliers
  • driving change through the continuous improvement of our policies with suppliers
  • playing a leading role in the transformation of agricultural sectors relevant to our business
  • communicating to consumers about sustainable sourcing through our brands

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

Following our Procurement Framework (PDF 49KB), every material we purchase is covered by our Responsible Sourcing Policy (PDF 8.25MB) which applies to all suppliers.

Zero deforestation

We have committed to achieving a deforestation-free supply chain by 2023. This means that by the end of 2023, our raw materials will come from places that are verified as deforestation and conversion free.

We are focusing first on our supply chains for palm oil, paper and board and tea.

We believe that to make the greatest impact, we must focus on generating change at our raw materials’ origin. That is why we are concentrating on the critical first mile – from where our commodities are sourced, to where they are first processed.

Our scale enables us to have some impact, but even so, we can’t achieve the level of change needed on our own. We are inviting others in our supply chain to partner with us to drive systemic change together.

We are committed to working with industry groups, NGOs and governments – to form partnerships, promote advocacy and carry out critical work on the ground.

Deforestation-free tea

Our long-standing partnership with the Rainforest Alliance supports smallholder farmers around the world to adopt more sustainable practices. In India, HUL is one of the co-founders and co-funders to trustea – The India Sustainable Tea Program - along with other key stakeholders like IDH-The Sustainable Trade Initiative and industry representatives. Trustea is instrumental in achieving sustainable sourcing and zero de-forestation commitments in tea.

By the end of 2021, 68% of all our tea was sustainably certified by Rainforest Alliance, or trustea verified.

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

By the end of 2021, 98% of our directly purchased paper and board packaging materials were made from recycled fibre or came from certified sustainably managed forests.

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

In 2021 over 68% of tea for our 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 working to move to living wage and living income for all by 2030, 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.

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 6,000 farmers across India in 2021. 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 fetches 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 can 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 footprint by reducing the water abstracted via manufacturing sites.

Our manufacturing operations have witnessed a 47% 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.

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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 10,000 villages in 8 states and 2 union territories across India with other partners. 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 2020-2021 include a water potential of over 1.9 trillion litres through improved supply and demand water management, an additional 1.3 million tonnes of agricultural and biomass production, and over 60 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.

Other initiatives that are making a difference

Project Suvidha

Suvidha is a first-of-its-kind urban community centre that makes hygiene & sanitation accessible to all. It provides its users with various facilities including clean toilets, laundromats, handwashing & shower stations, purified drinking water and a safe and dignified environment, especially for women and children.

In February 2022, we launched our seventh and largest Suvidha centre in Dharavi, Mumbai, in partnership with HSBC India and the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. Keeping sustainability at its core, all our centres are solar powered and are designed to treat & reuse wastewater.

Prabhat

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). In the last eight years, the initiative has positively benefitted over seven million lives across 21 states and two union territories.

Prabhat also works with communities to ensure water security and the provision of good drinking water. By working with farmers around HUL factories, Prabhat helps manage the demand of water while ensuring its availability in agriculture. Mapping the community’s water resources to provide innovative water conservation techniques, the programme helps collectively build robust water structures. It also strengthens the water governance at the village level through Paani Panchayats. Through the Paani Panchayat, the communities can decide the right crops to grow based on the water availability in their villages.

Additionally, nutri-gardens have been created using the multi-layer farming technique. Growing underground, on-ground crops and climbers have increased the productivity of the land.

The Alliance for Water Stewardship standard has also been adopted to take collective action on local water resources.

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