Unilever and the Sustainable Living Plan

Today I was invited by Unilever to take part in their launch of the Sustainable Living plan here in London. The purpose of this post is to give you an idea what my impressions where from this event.

General opinion:
This was a very well organised event. Overall it was a very interesting and informative event with a lot of Unilever employees present to answer any question about the plan and other related topics. The presentations where short and direct whereas the debate was a good mix of sceptical views and challenging questions from the audience.

Here are some things I took away from the event:

1) The Sustainability Living Plan is very ambitious. Unilever plans to have the following outcomes by 2020:

  • Help more than a billion people improve their health and well-being
  • Halve the environmental impact of our products
  • Enhance the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people in our supply chain

This sounds very ambitious indeed and I can only applaud this ambition. Where would we be without being ambitious. Nowhere in my view.

2) At the beginning is was not really sure about the senior leadership / CEO commitment for this plan. So much in the CSR / Sustainability field depends on the leadership commitment. But as the presentations went ahead and the debate was shaping up everyone could clearly see and hear what Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, had in mind with this plan. His answers where reasonable and direct while at the same time always practical as well. This is not always the case in my view.

3) Unilever seems to be ahead of the curve in terms of CSR / Sustainability best practice. This is clearly what this event showed. Yes, they have a lot of resources available but these resources seem to be used really well. I asked a question to a Sustainability team member whether there would be a designated Sustainability / CSR department and she replied that there is but all of the actions and responsibilities are now much more integrated into the global business areas that the purpose of the CSR / Sustainability team mostly is to co-ordinate these and bring them in line. Sustainability / CSR is not just something that is dictated but implemented and integrated within the overall business the employee concluded.

Of course, I did not really expect any different answer but you know, I believed her. Everything I heard today at the event was believable. Not to much fuss and drum-rolling. Just good information and a sense of CSR / Sustainability ambition from Unilever.

The future of this plan

This is a good plan but the future will tell whether Unilever will be able to present us with interim results/data in 12 months time that are valuable and meaningful for us as a business sector. And, more importantly, show us some real life examples/changes this plan has produced in developing and developed countries. In the end it all needs to be weighted up to what this plan actually produced.

This sustainable living plan has had a good start, now Unilever needs to focus on delivering these goals. I am positive about this plan and will support it in the supermarket with my purchases. But this is just me. What are you impressions?

Some more reactions to this event:

Note: I am not at all associated with Unilever. They are not a client and I have not received any kind of compensation for this article. I am simply impressed by this ambitious plan. 🙂

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