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.
We want to make sustainability commonplace by restoring the health of our planet, both in our supply chain and beyond.
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
- Leading 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.
By 2023, we are committed to achieve a deforestation-free supply chain by ensuring our raw materials come from verified deforestation and conversion free places.
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 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 such as industry groups, NGOs and governments.
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 — embodying our commitment to conduct business with integrity.
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. We are committed to procuring a sustainable supply of palm oil.
In 2020, Unilever committed to achieving a deforestation-free supply chain by 2023 for the crops with high deforestation risk.
Our policy for sustainable sourcing includes four key principles that we require all our palm oil suppliers to adhere to throughout their operations and supply chains
- Protecting natural ecosystem from deforestation and conversion
- Respecting and promoting human rights
- Transparency and traceability and
- Being a force for good for nature and people
We monitor the performance of suppliers through a combination of tools that includes our own independent verification mechanism, the use of traceability technology and reporting tools such as the No- Deforestation, No Peat, and No – Exploitation Implementation Framework.
Through partnerships, advocacy and committed work on the ground, we’re helping lead real progress towards our vision of a supply chain in which sustainable palm oil is commonplace. A key part of our supplier sustainability program involves engaging with smallholders on the ground.
The future of palm oil can be sustainable, and we are fully committed to our vision of a deforestation-free supply chain by 2023.
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.
In 2021, over 68% of tea for our brands was sustainably sourced. 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. We also nurture and protect the lands for the benefit of future generations.
To improve livelihoods in tea, through Trustea*, we are working to move to living wage and living income for all by 2030.The large-scale impact is seen in Bought Leaf Tea Factories as well. Equal and fair treatment of all workers without any gender bias, along with a systematic grievance redressal mechanism has contributed to raising the quality of life, especially for the women workforce.
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 richer 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.
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 help us effectively tackle water security while we keep collaborative action at the front and centre.
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 our 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. We were able to achieve this by concentrating on reducing freshwater abstraction, implementing captive rainwater harvesting, and maximising the use of RO plants.
Reducing water in agriculture
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. 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
- Additional 1.3 million tonnes of agricultural and biomass production
- 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
Suvidha is a first-of-its-kind urban community centre that not only makes hygiene & sanitation accessible to all but also keeps sustainability at the forefront by using solar power and reusing wastewater. The centre provides various facilities including clean toilets, laundromats, handwashing and 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.
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 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 strengthens the water governance at the village level through Paani Panchayats, through which 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. The land productivity has increased due to growing underground, on-ground crops and climbers.
Trustea is a multi-stakeholder program, locally developed and India- owned sustainability tea code.