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Protect and regenerate nature

Hindustan Unilever 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.

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HUL Compass ESG Goals

We envision a world where forests are safeguarded, agricultural systems are rejuvenated, water systems are preserved, and smallholder farmers are empowered. To this end, we are working towards:

  • Deforestation-free supply chain for palm oil, paper and board, tea, soy, and cocoa by 2023.
  • Help protect and regenerate land, forests, and oceans by 2030.
  • 100% sustainable sourcing of our key crops.
  • Empower farmers and smallholders to protect and regenerate farm environments.
  • Contribute to 3 trillion litres of water potential in India through HUF by 2025.
  • Implement water stewardship programmes in 12 locations in water-stressed areas by 2030.
  • 100% of our ingredients will be biodegradable by 2030.

When the planet thrives, so do we. The only way to grow our business is to resolve the climate crisis by protecting and restoring the natural environment to health. At Hindustan Unilever, we aim to build a nature-positive future, through our supply chain and beyond, by regenerating the land, forests, and water systems we all depend on.

Our journey so far

  • The Hindustan Unilever Foundation (HUF)along with its partners, has delivered a cumulative and collective water potential of over 2.6 trillion litres through improved supply-and-demand water management.
  • Active water stewardship programmes in Sumerpur, Etah, Chhindwara, Bhuj, Khamgaon, Pondicherry, Hosur, and Sonepat.
  • HUF drove1.7 million tonnes of agricultural and biomass production and created over 110 million person-days of employment.
  • 82% of tomatoes and 69% of tea procured were sourced sustainably.
  • Partners in tea, tomato, and dairy firmed up for the implementation of regenerative agricultural practices.

Our approach to sustainable and regenerative sourcing

The Unilever Sustainable Agriculture Code (SAC) (PDF 7.88 MB) and the Unilever Regenerative Agriculture Principles (RAPs) (PDF 8.34 MB) provide the basis for our sustainable sourcing programme.

The SAC is a collection of best practice principles for farming that hundreds of thousands of farmers have used since 2010 to make their operations more sustainable. But despite years of implementation, the SAC has not been enough for us to solve all the sustainability challenges in our agricultural supply chain – from a decline in soil health to biodiversity loss. We recognised a need to go further.

This is why in April 2021 we introduced the Unilever Regenerative Agriculture Principles (PDF 8.34 MB), which provide guidance on how to nourish the soil, capture carbon and restore and regenerate the land. We aim for these to inspire our business, divisions, brands, our suppliers, and peers – and form the basis for regenerative programmes for ingredients in our supply chain.

To maximise our impact, we’re building on the work we have done to date, through the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) which came to an end in 2020. Under the Unilever Compass, we have revised our Sustainable Sourcing programme to focus on an updated set of 12 key crops and agricultural commodities because of their importance to our business and our brands, and our ability to use our scale to deliver greater positive impact.

Deforestation-free supply chain

  • We ensure that our raw materials are sourced from verified deforestation- and conversion-free areas.
  • While our scale helps create impact, collaboration is key to bringing about long-lasting change. To achieve our sustainability goals, we’re working with industry groups, NGOs, and governments.
  • We're helping empower farmers and smallholders to protect and regenerate their land, enhance livelihoods, and raise standards.

A sip of sustainability

  • Through trustea*, we have been nurturing degraded land, improving livelihoods, and are working towards a living wage and living income for all by 2030.
  • By 2022, 100% of the chicory was sustainably sourced and farmers were covered by the Unilever Sustainable Agriculture Code.
  • The tea estates and Bought Leaf Tea factories reflect the large-scale impact we’ve had so far: fair treatment of workers, eliminating gender bias, systemic grievance redressal, and women empowerment.

Trustea - Deforestation-free tea

  • In the same venture, we work alongside the IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, and industry representatives.
  • trustea has been instrumental in achieving our sustainable sourcing and zero deforestation commitments in the tea sector.
  • Our long-standing partnership with the trustea and Rainforest Alliance helps farmers around the world adopt sustainable agricultural practices.

The importance of certification and transparency

  • We’ve long believed certification is one of the important ways to drive positive change in tea supply chains. We’re India’s largest tea business and a founding member of trustea, the Indian tea industry collaboration on sustainability.
  • trustea covers all aspects of tea manufacturing, supporting sustainability and competitiveness by improving productivity, quality, and safety standards. Through its Sustainable Tea Programme, both smallholder farmers and tea estates are encouraged to adopt more sustainable practices. Nearly 65% of India’s tea production was trustea verified in 2022, and we buy both trustea verified and Rainforest Alliance CertifiedTM tea.
  • Tackling social issues in the tea supply chain
    We know there are many deep-rooted and longstanding issues in the tea industry. Our aim is always to respect and value the human rights of tea workers and smallholder farmers and work to improve their health and financial security while protecting and nurturing the land they rely on. We’ve learned that we can only achieve the systemic change required if we work in partnership with others, from tea growers, suppliers, and NGOs to local and national governments and the wider industry. Tea workers and farmers depend on the land to grow their tea – and we're committed to nurturing it so that future generations will continue to benefit. With our suppliers, we work on nature-based projects like smart agriculture, water conservation, and pesticide reduction. Together, we're building programmes that implement sustainable and regenerative farming practices including improving soil, crop quality, biodiversity, and reforestation.
  • Addressing women’s safety in the tea sector
    In the tea industry, there are worrying incidences of human rights abuses, including violence against women, and worker wages are often low. We’ve put innovative programmes in place to tackle these issues, working with others to promote change across the sector. With IDH, (The Sustainable Trade Initiative), we created the Women’s Safety Accelerator Fund in 2020.
  • It’s an innovative impact fund that supports tea producers and partners in India to set up mechanisms to address gender-based violence, strengthen prevention, and support women’s empowerment in the tea gardens, accelerating the take-up of the UN Women Global Women’s Safety Framework in Rural Spaces.
  • Until 2022, the program has covered 162 tea estates, benefiting 235,000 plantation workers.

Sustainable palm oil

Unilever has been at the forefront of driving industry-wide change to ensure a sustainable future for palm oil. It is one of the major raw materials, and we are committed to procuring a sustainable supply of palm oil for our products. We have a plan to ensure that the palm oil we buy is not only sustainably sourced but deforestation-free.

Sustainable paper and board

  • We procure our resources from mills certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
  • We have further multiplied our efforts to reduce overall consumption of paper and board, and utilise lower grammage paper.
An image of a farmer walking in a plantation and carrying a basket strapped to his head.

Sustainable fruits and vegetables

Over 82% of the tomatoes used in Kissan Ketchup were locally and sustainably sourced in 2022.

  • Since 2015, the Public-Private Partnership project was launched between HUL and the Maharashtra government in 2012 to source tomatoes sustainably, and has become self-sustaining.
  • We have empowered farmers with buy-back guarantees, knowledge and expertise in sustainable tomato cultivation, agricultural and irrigation practices, and recommendations for the right seeds since 2019.
  • We are extensively working with a large number of smallholder farmers to ensure tomato farmers are trained and adopting good agricultural practices which has resulted in significantly higher yields and better returns to the farmers. HUL provides farmers with an assured market for their produce.
  • We work with more than 1,20,000 smallholder farmers in the tea, chicory, and tomato supply chain.

Unilever also helped establish the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform to identify links and agree on common standards in line with other FMCG companies we share suppliers with.

Hindustan Unilever water stewardship programme

Water stewardship

Our goals for water preservation:

  • Access to safe drinking water for all.
  • Ensuring water availability across the globe, especially in water-stressed areas.
  • Bridging the gap between water availability and water use.

Reducing water abstraction by manufacturing sites

  • We have achieved this by focussing on reducing freshwater abstraction, implementing captive rainwater harvesting, and maximising the use of RO plants.
  • We further aim to lessen our carbon footprint by reducing water abstraction.

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Our sites use the best available technologies and processes to conserve water.

One such example is to maximise re-use of wastewater recovery through tertiary treatment with Vacuum Distillation/Multi-effect Evaporator & Dryer technology. This has resulted in >90% recovery of treated wastewater at our sites in Mysore and Hosur.

Some of the programs to reduce water consumption across all operations include the following:

  • Re-use of treated wastewater through Tertiary Reverse Osmosis in Utilities at Rajpura, Nabha, Haridwar, Amli, Doom Dooma;
  • Use of ETP/STP treated water for Toilet Flushing across sites;
  • Recirculation of seal cooling water in pumps at Rajpura, Mysore, Hosur, Sumerpur, Nalagarh;
  • Rainwater Harvesting Ponds and Pits at Rajpura, Nashik, Nabha, Chiplun, Chhindwara, Mysore, Sumerpur, Amli, Doom Dooma for Non-product use and recharge of Groundwater;
  • Usage of Vacuum Band Dryer (VBR) condensate in process cooling tower at Sonepat;
  • Water saving per annum by optimizing CIP cycles at Sonepat;
  • Jumbo bag conversion to eliminate drum washing at Nabha, Sonepat, Rajahmundry;
  • Spray Nozzle and Booster pumps for tray washing at Nabha;
  • Multi-feffect evaporator condensate re-use at Rajahmundry;
  • Automated water taps for Hygiene stations at Haridwar, Doom Dooma, Nabha;
  • Reverse Osmosis (membrane-based) system in place of DM (de-mineralization plant) to reduce the use of regeneration water at Hosur;
  • Cooling Tower Optimisation in Amli, Chindwara, Haridwar, Nabha, Sonepat;
  • Re-use of RO Reject and WTP Backwash water-Nalagarh.

Reducing water use in agriculture

Image of a lady transplanting crops
  • In our efforts to source tomatoes sustainably, we have begun trials to use mulching as a technique that uses less water

The Hindustan Unilever Foundation (HUF)

Set up in 2010, HUF supports and amplifies scalable solutions to address India’s water scarcity, especially at the intersection of rural communities and agriculture. Its programme, Water for Public Good, is anchored in the belief that water, as a public commodity, must be governed by citizens. It involved government bodies, communities, industry experts, and mission-led organisations to catalyse effective solutions. One of HUF’s primary goals is to contribute to 3 trillion litres of water potential in India by 2025.

The pillars of HUF’s initiatives

  • 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 behavioural change for responsible water use in agriculture.

Project Suvidha

  • A first-of-its-kind urban community centre with sustainability at its core.
  • Aimed at making hygiene and sanitation accessible to all while promoting the use of solar energy and wastewater reuse.
  • We have established 12 Suvidha centres in Mumbai in partnership with HSBC India and the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation), out of which 11 are in partnership with HSBC India.
  • Provides clean toilets, purified drinking water, shower stations, laundromats, and a dignified environment for all.
  • In 2023 alone, we built five new Suvidha centres and have also signed a strategic partnership with JSW Foundation to establish 10 more Suvidha Centres in Mumbai.

Prabhat

  • Building on community needs at a grassroots level, Prabhat works in tandem with the country’s development agenda and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Prabhat works with communities to ensure water security and provide safe drinking water. It also works with farmers to manage water demand and availability for agriculture.
  • The programme builds robust water structures by mapping the community’s resources and innovative conservation techniques.
  • At the village level, it strengthens water governance through Paani Panchayats which decide on the right crops to grow based on availability.
  • Prabhat has increased land productivity by incorporating a mix of underground cultivation, on-ground crops, and climbers.
  • Nutri-gardens, created using a multi-layered farming technique, help in replenishing the soil.
* (1,2)

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

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