Unilever Plans for 100% Sustainable Packaging

Unilever Wows Consumers and Competitors with Sustainability Standards

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted August 9, 2010

Unilever — the parent company of Dove, Lipton, Vaseline, and a host of other food and personal and home care brands — has long lead the food and beverage industry in sustainability standards.

In fact Unilever has been the sector leader and claimed the number one slot on the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes for the past 11 years.

It beats out Nestle, Danone, PepsiCo, and even Kraft in the 2010 Tomorrow’s Value Ratings, which ranks the industry’s 10 largest public companies on how well it manages social and environmental issues among other sustainability measures on a 100-point scale.

And just last month, Unilever announced ambitious plans for 100% sustainable paper packaging for all of its products by 2020.

The company is aiming for an increase from the current 62% of sustainable-sourced paper packaging to 75% in five years, with the end goal of sourcing 100% of paper packaging from either sustainable sources or recycled content in ten years’ time.

The company said it will give preference to paper sources certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). unilever

Unilever recognizes the FSC as the most comprehensive forest management certification program in the world, but is aware of the fact that this kind of paper is not available in the volume or in all areas worldwide where Unilever’s factories would require supply.

Unilever also acknowledges that FSC certification is often difficult for small forest owners to obtain, and so the company noted that it would accept paper from programs that are endorsed and approved by the Endorsement of Forest Certification if and where Unilever cannot obtain FSC-certified paper for its packaging needs.

Last year, Unilever reassessed and redesigned its product packaging through collaboration with the Rainforest Alliance, a certification program that involves farmer with a holistic approach that treats environment, ethics, and economics equally.

Rainforest Alliance standards require farmers to commit to continuing reform for worker welfare, fare management, and environmental protection and preservation. The Kenya-based program allows for decent wages, education, health care, and housing for workers on farms now spanning three continents.

Unilever sells approximately 60 million products every day in 170 nations worldwide. The products are currently packaged using a wide range of materials, including plastic, paper and board, glass, aluminum, and steel.

Two years ago, Unilever designed a metric system by which to assess the waste footprint of its products, measuring the weight of leftover product and packaging that has or cannot be reused, recovered, or recycled. This analysis allows Unilever to rethink packaging design earlier in the manufacture process.

The company takes a life-cycle approach in packaging to ensure use of the most suitable and sustainable packaging while reducing waste, and purchases wood fiber-based material for much of its packaging.

Unilever’s long-term goal is to source all key agricultural raw materials sustainably:

We believe that securing our supply of raw materials can go hand in hand with economic and social development in rural areas, providing better incomes to smallholder farmers and agricultural workers. With experience in working with smallholders around the globe, Unilever is well placed to contribute.

Through its collaboration with the Rainforest Alliance, Unilever has not only redesigned packaging; but also improved sustainability in its products.

Tea is the world’s favorite beverage after water. Unilever’s Lipton (the world’s best-selling tea brand) and PG Tips (the UK’s number one tea) teas have undergone huge strides in sustainable farming and production.

In 2007, Unilever committed to source all Lipton and PG Tips tea bags from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms by 2015. These strides have made a huge impact on the tea industry in general and in Unilever’s mission for improving sustainability across the company.

By the end of last year, 69 tea factories were certified in Kenya alone — and nearly 38,000 smallholder farms also achieved certification through investing in agrochemicals, waste water treatment equipment, and micro hydroelectric schemes.

Unilever uses around 3% of the world's palm oil supply in making shampoo, soap, and margarine. In 2008, Unilever made a commitment to purchase all palm oil from certified sustainable sources by 2015.

Through ongoing reform and redesign of products and packaging — and in staying true to the company's vision to "develop new ways of doing business with the aim of doubling the size of our company while reducing our environmental impact" — Unilever is doing more using less.

The company boasts a 40% reduction in CO2 from energy per tonne of production by our factories and a 65% reduction in water use per tonne of production in its factories from 1995–2009.

In July 2010, it was named ‘Company of the Year’ by UK-based organization Business in the Community for the positive impact it has on communities, environments, marketplaces, and workplaces around the world.

The company invested nearly 118 million dollars in community programs worldwide in 2009.

In keeping with the idea of “Creating a Better Future Every Day,” you can check out Unilever’s 2010 Sustainable Development Report for yourself. I also encourage consumers to check out Unilever's impressive Sustainability Timeline.

For me, at least, Dove shampoo and Vaseline lotions are looking more and more appealing in terms of brand loyalty.