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Unilever Sustainable Living Plan Year 7 Update


Average read time: 5 minutes

Executive Vice President of Unilever SA shares update on the company’s Sustainable Living Plan

South Africa USLP 7 School MEC

The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) is a blueprint for achieving their vision to grow their business, whilst decoupling their environmental footprint from their growth and increasing their positive social impact. It is driving growth through brands with purpose, taking out costs from their business, reducing risks and helping them build trust. Ultimately, it also sets out their plan for how they can make sustainable living common place, thereby create a brighter future for the consumers they serve.

Seven years ago, Unilever launched the USLP to demonstrate to the world that a corporate can create value with human values at its core. Economic development, through responsible business, is the best way to bring people out of poverty and address social issues. Today, Unilever shared their year seven update and how they have been addressing issues such as job creation, health and hygiene, sanitation and SMME development.

Unilever has once again demonstrated how its high profile sustainability strategy is paying off, as its designated sustainable living brands continue to outperform the wider business.

The global consumer goods giant provided an update on its 'Sustainable Living' brands, confirming they grew 46 per cent faster than the rest of the business and delivered 70 per cent of Unilever's overall revenue growth.

The update also confirmed the company has expanded its range of 'Sustainable Living' products, increasing the number of brands that have been awarded the designation from 18 to 26 last year.

More broadly the company said it was on track to meet around 80 per cent of the overarching sustainability targets it has set in its Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), including its pledges to helping more than a billion people improve their health and well-being by 2020 and halve the environmental impact of their products by 2030.

USLP is made up of three big goals and commitments across nine pillars, supported by targets that span across Unilever’s social, economic and environmental performance across the value chain. These three goals are:

  • Improve the health and well-being of more than 1 billion people
  • Decouple their environmental footprint from their growth
  • Enhance the livelihoods of millions of people

“We are living in an increasingly uncertain and volatile world. Temperatures are rising, droughts are more frequent, food supplies are increasingly scarce, the gap between rich and poor is growing and billions still do not have access to basic hygiene and sanitation. We see first-hand how people are already affected by these changes which pose new challenges for us: fluctuating commodity prices, unstable markets and a shortage of sustainable raw materials,” explains Unilever SA Executive Vice President Luc-Olivier Marquet.

“However, with change comes opportunity. From this the USLP was born. We believe that sustainable and equitable growth is the only way to create long-term value for our stakeholders. For example, through our inclusive growth model, we have employed 124 individuals and aim to increase this to 350 . That’s why we have placed the USLP at the heart of our business model,” adds Marquet.

Today’s year seven update included a trip to Kwa-Mashu to showcase Unilever’s School Hygiene and Sanitation Programme. Next stop was a visit to a Spaza shop, highlighting the company’s Township Job Creation Development Programme, concluded by an OLA Vendor Presentation.

“Today was an example of Unilever’s work in action and how these programmes are helping the company move towards achieving their goals,” explains Marquet.

Unilever’s top six brands are Sustainable Living brands, and Unilever research shows us that 54% of consumers want to buy sustainable products and 1/3rd of them are already doing so. The USLP is the company’s key differentiator to build trust and reputation, and the results yield the following:

  • Operating sustainably future-proofs the supply chain against the risks associated with climate change and water scarcity. It lowers risk.
  • The USLP delivers savings to our business. For example, by using less energy, Unilever avoids energy costs in factories of more than €490 million since 2008. And by using fewer materials and producing less waste, the company has avoided costs of over €260 million over the same period.
  • Building trust and becoming the No. 1 graduate employer of choice in the FMCG sector across 44 countries.
  • Our Sustainable Living brands delivered 70% of our growth in 2017.

Marquet adds: “We have much to do before reaching our 2020 goals, but what we have achieved thus far is a proud moment for me and the amazing teams that work behind the scenes. Many of our dedicated people work tirelessly on projects that are helping us reach our goals.”

Some of the projects helping to make a sustainable difference are:

Sunlight water saving programme

Focused on raising awareness of water security and water saving

Lifebuoy- helping a child reach 5

Handwashing with soap, a key intervention in saving lives.

OLA Vendors

Improving thousands of lives through job creation, economic empowerment and capability building

Vaseline healing project

By 2020, Vaseline will help the skin of 5 million people affected by poverty and emergencies

Domestos: cleaner toilets, brighter future

Helping to capacitate schools as institutions to establish and maintain clean and usable toilets for school children.

National school hygiene and sanitation programme

Unilever and the Department of Basic Education have entered into a 5-year partnership to reach 15 000 schools per year with a hygiene and sanitation behaviour change programme

Development of township spazas

SA employment sits at 27%. With Unilever’s model, the aim is to employ sales people and develop their capabilities

Wildlands programme

Climate change programme – planting 1 000 000 trees and conversion of waste to school desks

OMO dig desk renewed project

Providing desks for underprivileged children across SA made from multi-layer waste


Provide holistic care for children living without parents or household figures

Unilever centre for environmental water quality (UCEWQ)

An established partnership with Rhodes university and the water research commission, looking at access to clean, safe water.

As a responsible corporate citizen, Unilever believes in making a positive difference, not only to those who use its products, but also to the communities in which it operates. The company ensures that its sustainability programmes extend further than what’s good for the company and always considers what’s good for all involved.

USLP 7 Spaza team
USLP 7 Spaza MEC
South Africa USLP 7 School
South Africa USLP 7 Ola
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