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Unilever calls for businesses to fight against climate change

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MUMBAI: Keeping true to its commitment of a better tomorrow, Unilever has issued a call for all companies affected by the growing costs of climate change, and in particular the food industry, to step up their commitment to tackling the issue. 

The risk to the food industry from climate change is severe, with some analysts predicting that the external environmental costs of climate change could exceed the earnings of the entire food industry by 2030 unless an action is taken.  The call coincides with a report released by Oxfam International arguing that the ‘Top 10’ food companies, including Unilever, should be among those leading the charge to address climate change both in their own operations, in their supply chains, and in the wider public policy arena.

 Sustainability strategy and global advocacy vice president Miguel Veiga-Pestana commented, “Unilever has been at the forefront of industry efforts to tackle climate change since the mid 1990s. We were the first to establish the Unilever Sustainable Agriculture Programme to address carbon emissions from agriculture and deforestation, and more recently we were the first to launch a comprehensive plan with time-bound targets reported on annually to drive progress towards sustainable sourcing. The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, was launched in November 2010. We are currently ahead of our self imposed target on sustainable sourcing and broader CO2 emissions from energy in our operations – down by 32 per cent since 2008.”

 Unilever has also sought to improve its footprint along the full breadth of the value chain, and to play a catalytic role within the industry and the wider private sector.

 For example:

·Committing to sourcing 100 per cent of agricultural raw materials sustainably by 2020, including tropical commodities, such as palm, soy and the paper and board used in its packaging.

· Working with the United Nations Environment Programme and Greenpeace to eliminate highly damaging HFCs from commercial refrigeration

· Actively contributing to the work of HRH The Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change, which has made the case for progressive public policy to bring down emissions and accelerate the deployment of renewable energy.

· Sourcing 100 per cent renewable electricity for sites in Europe and North America

·Co-Chairing the Sustainability Committee of the Global Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), an industry group with combined turnover of $3 trillion, with specific programmes now in place on deforestation and refrigeration.

·Unilever also led the process which resulted in the creation of the Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA)  a public-private partnership between the 400 companies of the CGF, the governments of the USA, UK, Norway, the Netherlands, Indonesia and Liberia and a large number of international NGOs.  The principal goal of the TFA is to eliminate any trace of deforestation from the supply chains of consumer goods companies.

 None of this could come too soon.  With less than 20 months until world leaders meet in Paris to agree a global climate change agreement, Unilever has also stepped up its advocacy efforts, with Unilever CEO Paul Polman recently addressing the Abu Dhabi Ascent meeting – a preparatory meeting convened by the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, to build momentum towards an ambitious intergovernmental deal.  At the event, Unilever CEO Paul Polman called for joint efforts to scale up action to tackle climate change, urging politicians to lead with “clarity, confidence and courage” in the international climate change negotiations. 

 “If every major company affected by climate change – not only in the food and beverage sector, but other impacted sectors such as tourism, insurance and transport – were to address the issue as one of business survival, and step change their efforts for delivery, we could together make a significant impact. We hope that Oxfam’s report will encourage other businesses to recognise the urgent need to future proof their operations, provide for the long term needs of their consumers, step off the sidelines and move into action.” concludes Miguel Veiga-Pestana.

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