Climate change, nature degradation, biodiversity decline and water scarcity are complex and interconnected problems. But they are not just environmental issues: they are also having a devastating impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.
The World Health Organization predicts that between 2030 and 2050, global warming will cause an additional 250,000 deaths a year from heat stress, malnutrition, malaria and diarrhoea. And the UN Food and Agriculture Organization reports that biodiversity loss threatens the security of the world’s food supplies and the livelihoods of millions.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 – are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. The first test of the world’s commitment to these goals is the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Unless we get climate under control, there will be no long-term gains on the development agenda.
Alan Jope, Unilever CEO, explains: “While the world is dealing with the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and grappling with serious issues of inequality, we can’t let ourselves forget that the climate crisis is still a threat to all of us. Climate change, nature degradation, biodiversity decline, water scarcity – all these issues are interconnected, and we must address them all simultaneously. In doing so, we must also recognise that the climate crisis is not only an environmental emergency; it also has a terrible impact on lives and livelihoods. We, therefore, have a responsibility to help tackle the crisis: as a business, and through direct action by our brands.”
That’s why in June, Unilever set out a range of new measures and commitments to help improve the health of the planet. These include:
- A recommitment to our Science Based Targets for zero emissions in our operations by 2030, and to prioritise partnerships with suppliers who have set their own Science Based Targets.
- A new, additional commitment, to achieve net zero emissions for all our products by 2039.
- A deforestation-free supply chain by 2023.
- Empowering a new generation of farmers and smallholders to protect and regenerate their environment.
- A new Regenerative Agriculture Code for all our suppliers.
- Water stewardship programmes to 100 locations in water-stressed areas by 2030.
In addition, Unilever brands will jointly invest €1 billion in a new Climate & Nature Fund, which they will use on projects such as restoring landscapes, protecting wildlife and preserving water.
This will build on work Unilever is already doing. For example, Ben & Jerry’s reducing greenhouse gas emissions from dairy farms, Seventh Generation advocating for clean energy for all and Knorr supporting farmers to grow food more sustainably.
“Our collective responsibility in tackling the climate crisis is to drive an absolute reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, not simply focus on offsetting – and we have the scale and determination to make it happen,” explains Marc Engel, Unilever Chief Supply Chain Officer. “But this is not enough. If we want to have a healthy planet long into the future, we must also look after nature: forests, soil biodiversity and water ecosystems.
Thomas Lingard, Unilever Global Sustainability Director – Climate & Environment added, “With a challenging international political landscape and macroeconomic pressures, it has never been more important for businesses to step up and recommit to the goals of Paris, and the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals. We want to be part of an ‘ambition loop’, where powerful signals from thousands of leading businesses make it easier for political leaders to go further in setting their own 2050 goals, short term targets, and enabling policy measures to drive delivery. The “Race to Zero” is on, and ultimately, it’s one we win or lose together.”