By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Sustainability and good environmental stewardship definitely count as pluses in the PR department of any multilateral corporation.
But for Unilever, the British-Dutch transnational consumer goods company that produces everything from chicken soup to hand soap, the Sustainable Living Plan – a seven-year experiment with a global program aimed at reducing the firm’s carbon footprint, boosting recycling, cutting potable water usage, focusing on clean energy, promoting sustainable production and positively impacting the life of its consumers – ecofriendly manufacturing has paid off big economically as well.
Here in Mexico, where the program has translated into a multifaceted commitment to use only sustainably grown produce and switching out carbon-based energy sources for solar panels while simultaneously helping underprivileged school kids learn basic hygiene (in the last seven years, Unilever has implemented a proper hand-washing campaign in more than 40 rural schools aimed at least 6 million children), the Sustainable Living Plan has so far saved the company more than 17.5 billion pesos in production costs, according to Gerardo Rozanski, Unilever’s president for Mexico and the Caribbean.
About a third of those savings are the result of lower waste production and the other two-thirds reflects a decrease in the use of raw materials.
Unilever’s sustainability campaign has also paid off in terms of the company’s market share.
Rozanski said that sales of Unilever’s sustainable brands have skyrocketed by about 47 percent in the last seven years compared to those of the company’s non-sustainable brands.
In fact, Rozanski said, Unilever’s sustainable brands accounted for 70 percent of the company’s growth in 2017.
“A recent study showed that 33 percent of Mexican consumers prefer to buy sustainably produced products, and another 21 percent would be willing to choose sustainably produced goods if given the option,” Rozanski said during a breakfast at Mexico City’s Hacienda de los Morales restaurant on Tuesday, May 15.
“That means that there is a potential market of 54 percent of consumers who can be targeted with sustainably produced products.”
Globally, Unilever’s sales have doubled since the Sustainable Living Plan went into effect in 2010.
By the year 2020, Unilever plans to cut the environmental impact of its products by half and source all its agricultural raw materials sustainably.