“We want to be a sustainable business in every sense of the word.”
CEO Paul Polman has made no secret of his core focus at Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch conglomerate which sells a wide range of products used by more than 2 billion people every day.
Unilever is one of many Fortune 500 companies embarking on sustainability initiatives to boost profits while reducing harmful environmental and social impacts.
To achieve its aim of doubling product turnover, Unilever has set out three broad-minded goals for its new campaign:
- improve the health and well-being of more than a billion people;
- halve the group’s environmental footprint across the total value chain, including greenhouse gases, water and waste;
- source all agricultural raw materials sustainably
Polman insists there is “no conflict between sustainable consumption and business growth.” In fact, he says, it is quite the opposite. “There is a compelling case for sustainable growth – retailers and consumers demand it and it saves us money.”
Part of Unilever’s sustainability push includes an educational campaign to make consumers aware of how their actions can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money. For example, consumer use results in 68% of greenhouse emissions for many Unilever products. Raw material processes account for 26%, manufacturing and transport together account for 5% and disposal rounds out the total at 1%.
Likewise, Unilever is educating consumers on cost-saving conservation strategies. For example, did you know that families who cut down their daily showers by as little as 2 minutes can save 21,000 liters of water a year and as much as $150?
German chemical group BASF and sportswear manufacturer Puma are two other examples of companies that have enacted sustainability initiatives to benefit the environment and their bottom line. Like Unilever, these companies have aligned their business models with the harsh realities at hand.
Our world is facing perilous energy, water, agriculture and resource challenges. Companies that fail to adapt as required may find themselves behind the curve.