Unilever Plans Net Zero Emissions by 2039

As of yesterday, Unilever has set out new actions to fight climate change, aiming to “bring the planet back to health” by protecting and regenerating nature and preserving resources for future generations in the wake of the new Unilever Compass initiative. 

Sustainability has long been at the forefront of Unilever’s business initiatives, with the company remaining acutely aware of the scale and urgency of the climate crisis. However,  a new press release has further deepened this commitment, with Unilever now suggesting it “will achieve Net Zero emissions from all our products by 2039.”

Alongside this net-zero goal, the company have also pledged to “empower, and work with, a new generation of farmers and smallholders, driving programmes to protect and restore forests, soil and biodiversity; and we will work with governments and other organisations to improve access to water for communities in water-stressed areas.”

In the mindset of accelerating action, Unilever’s brands will collectively invest €1 billion in a new dedicated Climate & Nature Fund. In addition to their present climate focussed initiatives, this funding will be used over the next ten years to further decisive action, with projects likely to include landscape restoration, reforestation, carbon sequestration, wildlife protection and water preservation.

“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.”

Alan Jope, Unilever CEO, explains.
Science-based targets

Currently, Unilever focusses on science-based targets, which include: to have no carbon emissions from our own operations, and to halve the GHG footprint of our products across the value chain, by 2030. However, as an aspect of their new actions, as of yesterday they are committing to zero emissions from all products by 2039 – from the sourcing of the materials we use, up to the point of sale of our products in the store.

Intending to do so 11 years ahead of the 2050 Paris Agreement deadline, Unilever incites a unified spirit working with partners towards science-based targets. Additionally, pressing the importance of transparency as an incentive to accelerate the race, Unilever intends to set up a system to communicate the carbon impact of every product they sell.

“The race to zero must be a collective effort, and business alone cannot drive the transition at the speed that is required. We call on all governments to set ambitious net-zero targets, as well as short term emissions reduction targets, supported with enabling policy frameworks such as carbon pricing,” the press release reads.

Sustainable sourcing for nature 

Despite leading sustainable sourcing for over a decade, with 89% of their forest-related commodities certified as sustainably sourced, Unilever is challenging themselves to even higher standards. They aim to:

Achieve a deforestation-free supply chain by 2023, by increasing traceability and transparency by using emerging digital technologies accelerating smallholder inclusion and changing our approach to derivates sourcing.

Regenerating nature: increasing local biodiversity, restoring soil health, and preserving water conservation and access, by empowering a new generation of farmers and smallholders who are committed to protecting and regenerating their farm environment

Introducing a pioneering Regenerative Agriculture Code for all our suppliers. It will build on our existing Sustainable Agriculture Code and will include details on farming practices that help rebuild critical resources.

Set up direct efforts to preserve water, by implementing water stewardship programmes for local communities in 100 locations by 2030. 

Join the 2030 Water Resources Group, a multi-stakeholder platform hosted by the World Bank, to contribute to transformative change and building resilience in water management in key water-stressed markets, such as India, Brazil, South Africa, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Finally, Unilever aims to make our product formulations biodegradable by 2030, to minimise their impact on water and the aquatic ecosystems.

“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. 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.”

Marc Engel, Unilever Chief Supply Chain Officer, explains.

“The planet is in crisis, and we must take decisive action to stop the damage, and to restore its health…While it’s critical to address the impact that our products have at the end of their life, it’s just as important to continue to look at the impact they have on the planet at the start of their life – in the sourcing of materials – as well as in their manufacture and transport. We will reduce the impact that our products and our operations have on the environment, and we will do our part to bring the planet back to health.”

Alan Jope concludes.

Maisie Law

Maisie Law is Editor-in-Chief here at CleanTech News. Maisie is keen to start making an impact on the developing CleanTech revolution by combining her interests in sustainable development and writing. Through her legal background, Maisie is acutely aware of the political and policy changes that need to be made to drive the earth towards carbon net zero. Equally as crucial to our mission, and the focus at CleanTech News is the sustainable achievements of those from start-ups to corporates, as she aims to champion and provide a platform to celebrate carbon reduction.