Unilever - On Sustainability


Unilever has been working with Muddy Boots since 2007, when they looked to work closely with a software and services partner, in order to streamline the management of their supply chain.

Having established an Agricultural Code by which to assess their farmers, Unilever needed a platform that would manage the supplier approval process. By adopting the Greenlight Assessments solution, Unilever’s farmers could answer questions that were relevant to multiple accreditations at the same time. This dramatically reduced the administration burden for them and sped up the whole supplier approval process for Unilever. 

The platform also gave Unilever access to all their supplier data in one place in real time, allowing them to assess and mitigate risk across the supply chain at any given time.

In 2010, Unilever launched the Unilever ‘Sustainable Living Plan’ with the overall aim of helping to “create a world where everyone can live well within the natural limits of the planet”. Today Muddy Boots works closely with the Unilever team to support them in achieving their global sustainability goals.

This month, we sat down with Jan-Kees Vis, the Global Director Sustainable Sourcing Development at Unilever, to find out more about what sustainability means to the company and  their plans for the years ahead.


What Does Sustainability Mean to Unilever?

There is a realisation that as a company, Unilever cannot survive if the economies and physical environments in which they work are not managed in a sustainable way. This realisation is the greatest motivation to protect the environment, as well as the people working within it. As a result, by 2020, Unilever’s business and sustainability plans will become one.

 How does the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan drive positive change?

At the beginning we set some big goals and around 70 KPIs within them. We are on track to achieve around 80% of our targets and our latest report is more transparent than ever on where the main challenges lie. It also outlines where we can share our experiences to support and improve the sustainable business journeys of others.

 What are the goals of The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan?


What difference has this approach has made to their business?

One of the major shifts within the company is that the focus on sustainability has created much more of a link between brand teams and marketeers and procurement teams and suppliers. It has created a new lens through which the different teams are looking at the supply chain and ultimately allows the brands and the marketeers to tell their stories more easily.

How does sustainability differentiate Unilever from the competition?

When we originally set about creating a sustainability plan, we were one of the first. Now all the major FMCG companies have a plan and we all work together through the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform, which we co-founded together with Groupe Danone and Nestle.

Through this initiative, companies like ours join together to work with individual farmers. This works particularly well where crops are grown in rotation and two different companies might have use for different crops within a single farmer's rotations. By working together with the farmer, it reduces the admin burden on the farmer as he or she can have a single point of contact but still supply to multiple companies.


Where next for your sustainability agenda?

We are wholly committed to our sustainability plan and will continue to work towards all of the targets we originally set, which are extremely broad. They span from improving employee health and nutrition to reducing water use in manufacturing processes and becoming carbon positive in manufacturing. For a more in-depth view of our plan, click here.

That is why working with third parties like Muddy Boots is essential to our success. They work alongside us, very much hand in hand, giving us the flexibility to add more dynamic and robust functionality to our systems, which will support our onward sustainability plans. Not only do their solutions give us efficiencies and dynamic data, but as a business they also have in-depth knowledge of the farming industry. This is key for us, as we want to create more and more ways to reduce the administration burden on our farmer supply chain.

We are also currently working with them to improve our supplier approval process and moving to farmer certification and auditor assessments. This will improve accuracy, reduce the risk of needing to apply corrections and give us increased security right across the supply chain.



Published: 5th June 2019

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