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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.

Climate change and deforestation, biodiversity loss and pollution – these distress signals from our planet are hard to ignore. It is a call for affirmative action for the benefit of humankind. We need to transform the system completely, and we need to start now.

We also recognise biodiversity loss as an emerging risk, so protecting these systems is important to ensure the resilience of our business and the communities where we operate.

We are committed to restoring the health of our planet, in our supply chain and beyond

Sustainability at the core of sourcing

Our sustainable and regenerative sourcing approach is guided by the Unilever Sustainable Agriculture Code (SAC) (PDF 7.88 MB) and the Unilever Regenerative Agriculture Principles (RAPs). (PDF 8.34 MB)

The SAC, a set of best practice principles, forms the foundation of our sustainable sourcing program. Recognising the need to address additional sustainability challenges such as soil health decline and biodiversity loss, we introduced the Unilever Regenerative Principles (RAPs) (PDF 8.34 MB) which focus on nourishing the soil, capturing carbon, and restoring and regenerating land.

planting with bare hands

Our aim is for these principles to drive inspiration and form the basis for regenerative programs across our business, divisions, brands, suppliers, and peers. Our Sustainable Sourcing program prioritises 12 key crops and agricultural commodities, aligning with our business priorities and leveraging our scale to achieve a greater positive impact.

Red tomatoes farm

Sustainable fruits and vegetables

81%of tomatoes sustainably sourced

We've collaborated with the Maharashtra government on a Public-Private Partnership project aimed at sustainable tomato sourcing, which has since become self-sustaining. Through this initiative, we've empowered farmers with buy-back guarantees, knowledge, and expertise in sustainable tomato cultivation, as well as agricultural and irrigation practices, and recommendations for the right seeds since 2019. Working closely with numerous smallholder farmers, we ensure they receive training and adopt good agricultural practices, resulting in significantly higher yields and better returns. HUL provides these farmers with an assured market for their produce. Engaging with over 130,000 smallholder farmers in the tea, chicory, and tomato supply chain, we are actively promoting sustainable agriculture. Furthermore, Unilever played a key role in establishing the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform to foster collaboration and set common standards among FMCG companies sharing suppliers.

Tea worker

A sip of sustainable and deforestation-free tea

Tea forms a key part of our goal to achieve a deforestation-free supply chain. Increasing the proportion of certified tea, we buy is crucial to helping us reach our goal – as certified tea gives us a traceable source of supply back to the farmer.

Our commitment to sustainable tea has been long-standing. We buy tea certified from trustea*, of which we are a co-founder and co-funder, and the Rainforest Alliance. Both these standards align with our deforestation-free commitment, with checks against satellite imagery. For large uncertified tea estates, we conducted a geospatial analysis and found a negligible risk of commodity-driven deforestation.

Our team has worked hard to bring traceability to our supply chain. Through the innovative tracetea app, which we helped develop, trustea* has mapped more than 20,000 tea smallholdings to ensure they are deforestation-free.

Visibility to the farmer is also a prerequisite to understanding the social setting and how we can intervene to bring positive change in the supply chain. We help smallholders implement sustainable practices in their tea businesses, improve welfare for workers, and support farmers in proceeding to certification if they wish. Investing in smallholder farmers, who are responsible for 53% of India's tea production, is one way we can empower communities to grow sustainably and care for land and soil.

79% of all our tea is sustainably sourced and certified

Sustainably sourced tea offers us traceability and allow us to stipulate a fully segregated supply chain.

Our efforts extend beyond procurement, as evidenced by the significant impact seen in tea estates and bought-leaf tea factories. These operations reflect our dedication to fair treatment of workers, eliminating gender bias, effective grievance redressal mechanisms, and empowerment of women.

A woman carrying a bag on her head

Tackling social issues in the tea supply chain

Recognising the entrenched social issues within the tea industry, our priority is to uphold the human rights of tea workers and smallholder farmers while enhancing their health and financial security.

a group of women sitting and reading

We understand systemic change requires collaboration with various stakeholders, including tea growers, suppliers, NGOs, and governmental bodies. With a commitment to nurturing the land, which is vital for tea cultivation, we collaborate with suppliers on nature-based projects such as smart agriculture, water conservation, and pesticide reduction. Together, we develop programs that promote sustainable and regenerative farming practices, encompassing soil improvement, crop quality enhancement, biodiversity preservation, and reforestation efforts.

Empowering women in tea gardens

In response to concerning instances of human rights violations, particularly violence against women, and low worker wages in the tea sector, we've implemented innovative programs in collaboration with partners. In 2020, we, along with IDH (The Sustainable Trade Initiative), established the Women's Safety Accelerator Fund. This impact fund supports tea producers and partners in India in implementing mechanisms to address gender-based violence, reinforce prevention measures, and bolster women's empowerment in tea gardens. The initiative has already reached 322 tea estates, benefiting 200,000 plantation workers by 2023, accelerating the adoption of the UN Women Global Women's Safety Framework in Rural Spaces.

Sustainable palm oil

Unilever, as a founding member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and a significant purchaser of palm oil, is dedicated to leading industry-wide transformation efforts. At the forefront of driving change, we prioritise ensuring a sustainable future for palm oil production. Given its significance as a major raw material, we are unwavering in our commitment to sourcing palm oil sustainably for our products. Our strategy includes stringent measures to guarantee that the palm oil we procure meets both sustainability standards and is free from deforestation.

Palm trees image

Deforestation-free supply chain

We are working towards a deforestation-free supply chain, where our palm oil, paper and board, tea, soy, and cocoa will originate from regions verified as free from deforestation and conversion. We ensure that our raw materials are procured exclusively from areas that meet the criteria.

While our scale allows us to generate significant impact, we recognise that collaboration is essential for bringing about enduring change. To realise our sustainability objectives, we are collaborating with industry groups, NGOs, and governments. Additionally, we are actively empowering farmers and smallholders to safeguard and regenerate their land, improve livelihoods, and elevate standards.

Sustainable paper and board

By the end of 2023, 94% of our directly sourced paper and board packaging materials were derived from either recycled fibre or certified sustainably managed forests. Our resources are obtained from mills certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Additionally, we have intensified our endeavours to minimise paper and board consumption overall, opting for lower grammage paper whenever feasible.

Recycled Boxes

Hindustan Unilever Foundation (HUF)

Scenic field path stretching into the distance, surrounded by lush greenery.

Established in 2010, HUF is dedicated to fostering scalable solutions to tackle water scarcity in India, particularly within rural communities and agriculture. In collaboration with our partners, we have collectively delivered a cumulative water potential of 3.2 trillion litres through enhanced supply and demand management practices.

Our flagship program, Water for Public Good, operates on the principle that water, as a public resource, should be governed by citizens. This initiative engages governmental bodies, local communities, industry experts, and mission-driven organisations to catalyse effective solutions.

To date, HUF has extended its reach to over 15,000 villages across 13 states and 2 union territories. HUF's efforts have created:

  • 3.2+Trillion litres of water potential
  • 2+Million tonnes of agricultural and biomass output
  • 114+Million person-days of employment
Tribal women preparing a watershed map

Setting benchmarks in water management in HUL operations

47% reduction in water consumption in operations (Against 2008 baseline)

Active water stewardship programs are ongoing in all our factories. Through this, we are not only reducing water consumption but are also enhancing the resilience to water-related challenges.

To cite a few examples, at our Doom Dooma factory, through rooftop rainwater harvesting and modular filtering systems, we capture nearly 100% of rainfall for high-quality water reuse in production. With over 65,963 KL collected and reused in four years, borewell extractions have decreased significantly.

In HUL’s Chhindwara factory, we have installed a 15,000KL rainwater storage pond and five harvesting pits within the factory premises. These significantly reduce reliance on external water sources, whereas off-site efforts include the construction of stop dams and recharge structures to reduce groundwater consumption and promote community engagement.

Rainwater storage pond at HUL’s Chhindwara factory
[a]

As per Calendar year 2023

* (1,2)

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

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