Unilever CEO dilutes sustainability targets to ‘drive performance’

Unilever chief executive Hein Schumacher has diluted the FMCG giant’s sustainability targets, including ESG goals, in a bid to “drive performance in the company”.

In an interview with Bloomberg, the food and drink manufacturer said some of the company’s sustainability targets, including plastic usage, would be watered down.

The British multinational had originally pledged to halve its use of virgin plastic worldwide by 2025, yet the company now confirmed it will reduce this plastic use by just 30% by 2026 – an adjustment that is understood to represent over 100,000 tonnes of plastic each year.

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Other targets that have been relaxed include the commitment to make all of its packaging recyclable, reusable, or compostable by 2025, which has now been pushed back to 2030 for rigid plastics and 2035 for flexible plastics.

Unilever’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) target to pay all its direct suppliers a living wage by 2030 was also adjusted, to a living wage promise for only covering suppliers of half of its spending on goods and services by 2026.

Schumacher said: “On plastics, you need governments, you need retailers, you need partners in the petrochemical industry. You need recycling systems that match.”

Referring to his new decision to row back on his predecessors sustainability targets, Schumacher added: “That was probably right at the time, but I have to now bring it back to something that I feel we can all really deliver on. I need to drive performance in the company.”

Unilever’s latest updates follow in the wake of the Competition and Markets Authority late last year launching an investigation into sustainability claims made by the business, after the UK watchdog warned shoppers might be at risk of being mislead by Unilever’s “green claims”

Schumacher’s reformed commitments also come only a month after the FMCG giant created a series of new climate goals as it calls upon the wider industry to follow suit.



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