For Unilever, climate action is key to building a more sustainable business

9 November 2022 | By Matt Miller, Sr. Copywriter

Welcome to The Sprout, a series that explores the ways businesses are working toward a more-sustainable future.

In the late 19th century, William Lever introduced the world’s first packaged and branded soap. Throughout the early 1900s, his product, Sunlight, became one of the biggest soap brands in the world, helping transform personal hygiene at the turn of the century. From its earliest days, Unilever was a company that worked to aid the lives of consumers while also moving the industry forward. More than 100 years later, that mission remains intact in the form of Unilever’s efforts as a sustainable business. “It’s at the heart of how we run our company today,” said Niki King, head of sustainability for Unilever North America. “Our vision is to be the global leader in sustainable business and to demonstrate how our purpose-led, future-fit business model drives performance. We have a long tradition of being a progressive, responsible business.”

As part of that tradition today, Unilever’s business strategy emphasizes a focus on sustainability, dedicated to both personal health and the health of the planet. From reducing emissions to recycling plastic, “Climate action is a key component to building a sustainable business,” King said. With 400 brands around the world – including Dove, Seventh Generation, Vaseline and more – Unilever knows the importance of building a sustainable business at a time when climate change has become a major concern for both brands and consumers.

TRESemmé pro collection Keratin smooth conditioner
TRESemmé pro collection Keratin repair shampoo
TRESemmé pro collection Keratin smooth shampoo

In order to help make it easier for consumers to make more-sustainable purchasing decisions, Unilever has recently launched a collection of concentrated hair products from TRESemmé and Dove exclusively in the Amazon store. These concentrated products provide twice as many washes as a non-concentrated version.

A cleaner mission that requires more than soap

In 2021, Unilever was awarded a Global Gold Class in the S&P Global Corporate Sustainability Assessment and a triple “A” score from the environmental nonprofit CDP for their action on climate and environmental issues. Their efforts come at a time when there is an urgency for brands to be responsible global citizens.

In April 2022, the UN published a report that outlined the daunting “climate emergency” facing humanity. According to the report, which was backed by hundreds of scientists, it’s “now or never” for nations to accelerate efforts to reduce emissions in order to limit global warming to 1.5º Celsius.

“The issues the world is facing on climate and the environment will require joint action from everyone: businesses, governments, retail partners, nonprofits, activists, and citizens,” King said.

As part of Unilever’s Climate Transition Action Plan, the brand is focusing on emissions reduction, with the plan to reach net-zero emissions globally by 2039. The brand is also committed to a 50% virgin plastic (or new, non-recycled plastic) reduction by 2025 (Dove, Hellmann’s, and Seventh Generation already use 100% PCR in most packaging). In North America, Unilever has invested $15 million in the Closed Loop Partners’ Leadership Fund to help recycle an estimated 60,000 metric tons of plastic packaging waste annually by 2025.

Given the seriousness of the situation, more consumers are making sustainability a priority when it comes to their buying decisions.

According to a recent report from Amazon Ads and Environics Research, 62% of consumers are actively seeking out brands that are sustainable in their business practices. Additionally, 73% of consumers say they are tired of brands acting like they are exempt from environmental responsibility. And 62% of consumers say that sustainability has become more important to them over the past three years.

“Unilever has been investing in sustainability efforts for decades, and we do believe it future-proofs our business,” King said.

quoteUpWithout a healthy planet and society, there will not be healthy business. And we certainly do see that consumers are interested in making sure their purchasing decisions support a healthy environment, so our efforts contribute to our brands’ trust with consumersquoteDown
– Niki King, Head of sustainability, Unilever North America

Reaching customers with more-sustainable messaging

“Some consumers may still be making the transition to a more sustainable lifestyle,” said Soumya Donkada, head of e-commerce at Unilever.

“We know that consumers are at different stages of their sustainability journeys. Consumers today are vocal, and there are a lot of consumers today who make purchasing choices based on sustainable attributes or because they believe in the company,” Donkada said. “However, there are many consumers who still struggle to make the shift in their everyday routine.”

In order to help make it easier for consumers to make more-sustainable purchasing decisions, Unilever has recently launched a collection of concentrated hair products from TRESemmé and Dove exclusively in the Amazon store. Products like these, Donkada said, help remove the “hassle factor” for consumers trying to make more-sustainable buying decisions. With concentrated products, Donkada said, one pack can provide twice as many washes as a non-concentrated version.

“Concentration is a smart way to make sustainable living easier for consumers in their hair-care routine, but it also provides the additional thrill of an even richer lather and a speedy delivery of their sought-after benefits,” Donkada said. “The product is convenient and so is the way to buy it, as it’s only a click away on Amazon.”

The same Amazon Ads and Environics Research study showed that 72% of consumers are likely to carry out their own research for sustainable options. Among these consumers researching more-sustainable products, 33% indicated third-party certification was among their most reliable sources of information.

Unilever also offers a number of products on Amazon that are part of the Climate Pledge Friendly program on Amazon. A label in Amazon’s store identifies products with at least one sustainability certification. Dove, Axe, Seventh Generation, Suave, Degree, TRESemmé and Vaseline are among Unilever’s brands that offer products that are Climate Pledge Friendly. Unilever also has a range of refillable products.

“We aim to integrate more sustainable options throughout our portfolio of brands, so that the work isn’t placed on consumers,” Donkada said. “They can continue to buy the brands they trust and the quality products they love, and we do the work of making sure the products are more sustainable, by integrating recycled content into packaging, ensuring that the packaging is recyclable and has clear labels for how to do that, and working to decarbonize our business operations.”

With this, Donkada said, Unilever hopes to lead a greater positive impact on the world.

If you’re interested in advertising your Climate Pledge Friendly products, reach out to your Amazon Ads account executive.