Unilever’s sustainable brands now delivering 70% of its growth

Unilever’s ‘Sustainable Living’ brands grew 46% faster than the rest of the business, but the company is now looking beyond its current targets by asking its employees what sustainability issues it should be prioritising

Unilever’s sustainable brands are now more responsible for more of Unilever’s growth than ever before, delivering 70% of its turnover growth as more of its brands put purpose at the core of their offering.

The FMCG giant’s ‘sustainable living’ brands also grew 46% faster than the rest of the business in 2017, although this is a slightly slower rate of growth than last year, when it topped 50%.

In a next step to prioritise sustainability, Unilever is using employee feedback to co-create its future agenda. The company carried out its largest ever “listening exercise” on what matters to its employees when it comes to sustainability.

The ‘Have Your Say’ project saw over 40,000 employees answer questions on what they think Unilever should prioritise for a sustainable future and what future success would look like. The results, which are yet to be announced, will be used to co-create its future agenda.

Sustainability has become increasingly important to Unilever since it launched its Sustainable Living Plan in 2010. It now has 26 sustainable living brands, up from 18 in 2016, with new entrants including Vaseline and Wall’s. 

Unilever is currently on track to meet 80% of its commitments, including improving health and wellbeing for 1 billion people, reducing environmental impact by half and enhancing the livelihoods for its employees, suppliers and retailers. In particular, by the end of 2017, 601 million people had been reached through its programmes on handwashing, sanitation, oral health, self-esteem and safe drinking water, while 109 of its manufacturing sites were using 100% renewable grid electricity.

Paul Polman, Unilever CEO, says: “We have made great strides in meeting many of the ambitious targets we set ourselves and the fact that our sustainable living brands are continuing to deliver growth shows that this is a business model that works.

“We want to be transparent about how much more there is still to do. This is critical because transparency is what gives our business its most important asset – trust. At a time when there is a crisis of trust in many institutions across the world, there has never been a more important time for business to play a leading role in restoring it.”

  • Does your brand successfully put purpose at the centre of its strategy? If so, there’s still time to enter Marketing Week’s Masters Awards. To find out more about categories and to enter visit the Masters website. Deadline for entries is 18 May.

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