Unilever’s ‘Sustainable Living’ brands are becoming increasingly important to the company’s business, with these brands growing more than 50% faster than the rest of the business and accounting for 60% of growth in 2016.
Both those figures have accelerated from 2015, when they accounted for 46% of growth and were growing 30% faster. The updated figures are part of a wider report on Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan.
Unilever wants all its brands to reduce their environmental footprint and increase their positive social impact. Its ‘Sustainable Living’ brands are those that are furthest ahead on this journey and combine a strong social or environmental purpose. In 2016, 18 of its top 40 brands were considered sustainable, up from 12 the year before.
Unilever says brands including Lifebuoy, Ben & Jerry’s, Dove and Hellmann’s are leading the way and achieving “above average growth”, with high single- and double-digit sales over the past six years.
Brands such as Lynx, Brooke Bond tea and Surf have now joined the growing list of Unilever’s Sustainable Living brands with purpose at their core.
“We have made great progress. Our results show that sustainability is good for business, with increasing evidence that our ‘sustainable living brands’ do better,” says Unilever CEO Paul Polman.
“There is no doubt that the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan is making us more competitive by helping us to build our brands and spur innovation, strengthen our supply chain and reduce our risks, lower our costs, and build trust in our business. It is helping Unilever to serve society and our many consumers, and in doing so, create value for shareholders.”
Unilever commissioned research to help understand what is driving people’s purchasing habits and behaviour. It showed that over half of all consumers already buy or want to buy sustainably. One in three (33%) already purchase products with sustainability in mind, and a further 21% do not currently but would like to.
Unilever is keen to show that its focus on sustainable business is paying off after it was the subject of a takeover attempt by Heinz earlier this year. It saw off the move but has faced renewed pressure to improve efficiencies and its value to shareholders.