With Unilever’s global income revenue that is estimated to be €53.3 billion turnover in 2015, 58% of its products in emerging markets, 13 brands have sales of more than €1 billion a year, with 168,000 people in its workforce; it means that every family around the world at one point or the other must have used one of its products.
The organisation that is globally headed by Paul Polman, has been delivering significant social and brand investments that are helping to create a brighter future that has been impactful to global citizens through its corporate purpose that is known as “to make sustainable living commonplace”. Polman who was at interactive session that was tagged “Building Sustainable and Profitable Business in Volatile Times” in Lagos, Nigeria recently is the Chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, a member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum, and sits on the Board of the UN Global Compact and the Consumer Goods Forum, where he co-chairs the sustainable committee.
Prior to this, Paul has served on high level panel on the Post 2015 Development Agenda, presenting recommendations on the Sustainable Development Goals on behalf of the private sector, and member of newly formed Business and Sustainable Development Committee.
The interactive session that was organised in collaboration with Lagos Business School had notable business and corporate executives as guests to inspire the next generation of leaders to pioneering sustainable and profitable businesses in volatile times.
In his speech, Polman said that there is no way a profitable and viable business can be built and sustained without considering the development of the environment. He said that Unilever came up with its belief of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) after it was launched in 2010 to drive profitable growth, reduce cost and fuel innovation that as it spans the entire portfolio of brands in all countries that sell the organisation’s brands.
“it has a social and economic dimension to our products that make differences to health and well –being of the people and our business supports the livelihoods of many people in the sourcing, productions and distribution of product”, he said.
He mentioned that the adoption of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals which he had the honour of contributing, provided for the first time in history a clear global framework to resolve the world‘s biggest challenge. According to him, the first test of the goals came at cop21 when 190 countries agreed the historic Paris Agreement on climate, setting the world firmly on the path towards a decarbonized economy as climate change has become one the biggest challenges the entire universe is facing as a society and as a business.
“In 2015, we set a bold new target to be carbon positive in our operations by 2030. Our aim is that 100% of our energy will come from renewable sources, and we intend to generate more renewable sources, we consume and make surplus available to the markets and communities in which we operate.
“This is the first time we have put a deadline on our ambition of sourcing 100% renewable energy, we knew that our success depends in part on the broader changes taking place in energy markets worldwide”.
The Unilever boss revealed that the intention of the organisation globally is aimed to achieve lower operational costs, greater resilience in energy supply and a closer relationship with communities and consumers.
Polman cited that In May, 2015 Unilever reached a major milestone for the first time when manufacturing networks achieved an annual saving of 1 million tonnes of CO2 compared to 2008 reducing Co2 from energy by 39% per tonne of production since 2008, resulting in around €330 million in cost avoided.
“In 2016, we analysed our top brands using this methodology, our analysis revealed that in 2015 sustainable living brands grew even faster than they did in 2014, they also delivered nearly half our growth and grew significantly 30% faster than the rest of the business”.
“We believe that if we want to effect change at scale, we will achieve this by making large, successful, category – defining brands recognizably sustainable. Our five biggest brands are all sustainable living brands.
“The organisation in January, 2015 announced a significant milestone when our global factory networks of over 240 factories sent zero non-hazardous waste to landfill.”
Polman said further that through collaboration and capitalizing on zero waste mindset’, Unilever has extended its ambition beyond the factories.
“By February 2016, nearly 400 more Unilever sites worldwide – such as warehouse, distribution centers and offices – had achieved zero non-hazard waste to landfill”, he said.
Also speaking at the session, the immediate past Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria and Country Chair of Shell Companies in Nigeria, Mutiu Sunmonu said that he grew up in business with the idea of sustainable development and not competition with others in business.
“We must start a big education campaign among businesses because no business can succeed in a failed environment and business owners must start thinking better ways of building a sustainable business”.
Sunmonu said that he liked what Unilever is doing and his own organisation will call for cross fertilization of ideas for effective sustainability in business development.
“We need to promote business education and see sustainability development as an integral part of doing business.”
Also speaking in the same vein, the Chairperson of Access Bank Plc, Mrs. Mosun Belo-Olusoga said that where she works, her organisation breath sustainability.
“In our board meeting, we don’t do anything with paper again, we have solar power ATM, when our staffs are not using any computer gadgets, they switch them off.”
Participants at the event were urged to think sustainability whenever they want to start their businesses for economic and environmental growth.