Unilever's investment in social good is paying off for the business, with the FMCG giant saying its sustainable brands have grown 46% faster than others in its portfolio over the past year.
While the company's 26 sustainable brands already include Unilever's top six best-performing names like Dove, Lipton and Knorr, the numbers show that overall these brands have posted growth for the fourth consecutive year – delivering 79% of the FMCG giant’s turnover increase in 2017.
As well as reflecting a growing consumer appetite for brands that have a social impact, the figures show there's profit in investing in responsibly sourced products. Other brands that fall under this umbrella for Unilever include Hellmann’s, Ben and Jerry’s, Seventh Generation, Pukka Herbs, Vaseline, Sunlight, Sunsilk and Wall’s.
The firm's strategy in this area in underpinned by Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) which is tasked with decoupling the company’s commercial drive and reliance upon the environment and its resources.
Unilever said it is currently on track to meet 80% of its internal targets around sustainability, which include improving health and wellbeing for 1 billion people, cutting environmental impact in half and enhancing livelihoods for its millions of employees, suppliers and retailers.
One such way it's been doing this is via the blockchain. Last summer, along with more than a dozen food companies and retailers including Walmart and Nestlé, it formed part of a consortium dedicated to using the tech to glean better insights about the origin and condition of food. The idea being that bringing transparency and traceability to the supply chain of products like tea will be beneficial to fair trade producers in the long-term.
'A business model that works'
Commenting on Unilever's latest sustainability numbers, Paul Polman, chief executive of Unilever, said: “Ever since we launched the USLP in 2010 we have reported openly on our progress. We have made great strides in meeting many of the ambitious targets we set ourselves and the fact that our sustainable living brands are continuing to deliver growth shows that this is a business model that works.
“We also want to be transparent about how much more there is still to do. This is critical because transparency is what gives our business its most important asset – trust. At a time when there is a crisis of trust in many institutions across the world, there has never been a more important time for business to play a leading role in restoring it.”
Unilever has also turned to its employees to help shape the its development on the sustainability stage, asking 40,000 staff for their view on what areas to focus on next.
Shedding some light on its progress on the ground, Unilever claimed that 601 million people have been aided by its sanitation program and that 109 of its sites are using 100% renewable energy. It added that 56% of its raw materials are sustainably sourced.