Five months ago, most people hadn’t even heard of Covid-19. But virtually overnight, all attention turned to this invisible yet deadly disease. And rightly so. Lives were – are – at stake.
In doing so, the focus shifted from a far greater and ever-present threat to people and the planet: the climate and nature crisis.
These haven’t gone away while the world has been dealing with Covid-19. Far from it. They are deepening by the day.
So, we must all double-down on our efforts. Because, while time is not on our side, we do have a window in which to act.
That’s why, today, we are announcing a new set of actions and commitments designed to improve the health of the planet:
Photo by Unilever employee, Ina Blatt
We’re being even bolder, so we can go even further
We are recognised for setting ourselves ambitious plans. Last month, we celebrated ten years of our Sustainable Living Plan. From this, we’ve learned a great deal about what works and what doesn’t.
And last year, we announced bold targets to keep plastic in the circular economy – where it is reused, recycled or composted – and stop it from ever finding its way into the environment.
Our new commitments are the next step. And they go further than we’ve ever gone before.
“While the world is dealing with the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and grappling with serious issues of inequality,” says Unilever CEO Alan Jope, “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 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.”
Tackling the climate emergency
We will maintain our existing science-based targets; meaning that, by 2030, there will be no carbon emissions from our own operations, and the GHG footprint of our products across their value chain will be halved.
Looking after our forests
To effectively tackle the climate crisis, we must also protect high carbon ecosystems, like forests, peatlands and tropical rainforests, which are essential to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement.
We’re also setting out to help regenerate nature and preserve the earth’s natural resources for future generations.
Protecting and preserving water
As part of our ambition to protect and regenerate nature, we will step up efforts to preserve water. Already, 40% of the world's population is affected by water scarcity and more than 2.1 billion people consume unsafe drinking water. Water security will continue to deteriorate as the impact of climate change is felt on water quality and availability across the globe.
Accelerating action through a new Climate & Nature Fund
To accelerate action, our brands will collectively invest €1 billion in a new dedicated Climate & Nature Fund, which they will use over the next ten years on initiatives that protect and improve the health of the planet. These could include projects that restore landscapes, reduce carbon emissions, or reforest and reinstate wildlife habitats.
This will build on all the great work we’re already doing. For example, Ben & Jerry’s reducing greenhouse gas emissions from dairy farms, Seventh Generation advocating for clean energy for all and Knorr supporting farmers to grow food more sustainably.
“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,” explains Marc Engel, Unilever Chief Supply Chain Officer. “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.
“In most parts of the world, the economic and social inclusion of farmers and smallholders in sustainable agricultural production is the single most important driver of change for halting deforestation, restoring forests and helping regenerate nature. In the end, they are the stewards of the land. We must, therefore, empower and work with a new generation of farmers and smallholders in order to make a step change in regenerating nature.”
Seventh Generation joined friends from the Sierra Club and Climate Parents in the 2018 Rise for Climate March in San Francisco
€1 bn invested in a new dedicated Climate & Nature Fund
Bringing the planet back to health
The global response to Covid-19 has given us a taste of what fundamental transformation can look like. We’ve seen how much dramatic change we can drive when we understand what’s at stake and when people connect with what they really value.
While we continue to fight the pandemic, we must intensify and accelerate our efforts to tackle the two biggest challenges we face today: the climate crisis and social inequality. And it requires everyone. Not just government, businesses and NGOs. But every global citizen.
If you care about human development and protecting the earth’s resources, you need to care about a serious response to climate change.
Through our new commitments, we want to do even more to help restore the health of the natural world. And if anyone thinks that isn’t a worthwhile ambition, we’d just ask them this…
What planet are you on?