Sets the standard

Key sustainable growth brand Pureit makes strides in Sri Lanka.

Woman picking onions

What do you do when as one of the World’s largest FMCG companies you are confronted by the harsh realities of water scarcity, poor hygiene, inadequate nutrition and the fate of farmers who are negatively impacted by the changing climate?

Well, if you are Unilever, you make the decision to up your game and take on more responsibilities. If you are Unilever, you become a champion of sustainable and equitable growth and you work to ensure that others follow suit.

The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan

The Anglo Dutch group which has products on sale in over 190 countries launched the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan in November 2010. The ambitious and extremely thorough 10 year plan was designed to result in three significant outcomes - help more than a billion people to improve their health and well being, halve the environmental footprint of the Company’s products and allow Unilever to source 100% of their agricultural raw materials sustainably. The progress made on the plan is reviewed annually and its finding published.

The Plan represents an unprecedented undertaking, as it covers social and economic, as well as environmental challenges. It covers the company's entire value chain, starting from the point of sourcing of raw materials right up to consumer use and disposal post usage. It also covers every single one of Unilever's products and brands. Additionally, aware that a solo effort will be of little use, the Company is working with, NGOs, Governments, its retail partners as well as industry forums such as the Consumer Goods Forum and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, to drive focussed cross sector change.

Champion of change

At the one year review of the plan, last year, Unilever CEO, Paul Polman spoke of the excellent progress made towards achieving the outlined sustainability goals, particularly in terms of the Company's sustainable agricultural sourcing.

Polman also emphasized that there is much more to be done and called for other companies to join in the drive for sustainable practices stressing that businesses must see the basic truth that “Sustainable, equitable growth is the only acceptable model....growth and sustainability are not in fact in our experience, sustainability drives growth”

Unilever is in fact absolute proof of the truth of that statement since less than three years after the publishing of the Sustainable Living Plan, and alongside undoubted progress in their sustainability endeavours, the company also reported a landmark year with an annual turnover topping 50billion Euros (£47bn) for the first time as profits increased by 7% to £4.1 bn. Unilever's market value rests at approximately £73 BILLION.

The Sustainable Living Plan in Sri Lanka

Unilever Sri Lanka has taken the Sustainable Living Plan to heart, and is proud to report progress in meeting the relevant targets including reducing the prevalence of diarrhoea by touching eight million people through hand wash awareness campaigns, and providing livelihoods to 5000 women headed households through its Project Saubhagya.

According to Amal Cabraal, Chairman, Unilever Sri Lanka, “Sustainable living is at the heart of everything we do at Unilever. The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan has played a key role in engaging Unilever employees across the globe around the mission of reducing our environmental impact while increasing our positive social impact. 

"In Sri Lanka we have identified ways in which we, as an organisation, can make the most difference to the country and its people. One brand that we feel plays a particularly critical role in Sri Lanka is Pureit – our revolutionary water purification system, which brings its consumers clean and safe drinking water while reducing household energy consumption.”

Pureit's place in the plan

Water scarcity is one of our planet’s most urgent problems with 2.8 billion people living in water stressed regions, of which 2 billion lack access to safe drinking water. One of Unilever’s sustainability targets is to provide 500 million people access to safe drinking water by 2020.

Speaking of Pureit's role in the Sustainable Living Plan, Marketing Director Asanga Ranasinghe said “Since its launch in 2005, 35 million people have gained access to safe drinking water thanks to Pureit. The system is unique and offers multiple benefits since it removes harmful viruses, bacteria and parasites and, research has shown, can reduce the incidence of diarrhoeal disease by up to 50%. These numbers are astonishing and highlight Pureit as a brand of great relevance in Sri Lanka.”

First launched in India the brand is also available in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mexico and Brazil. Described as the “mobile phone of drinking water” by Paul Polman, Pureit was developed specifically with the principles of sustainable growth and contribution at its heart.

On track for 2020

In reviewing the progress of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, Polman says “In Unilever we believe that business must be part of the solution. But to be so, business will have to will have to recognise that the needs of citizens and communities carry the same weight as the demands of shareholders. We believe that in the future this will become the only acceptable mode of business”

Two years in, Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan is a veritable blueprint for how multinational companies can instil sustainable thinking, and use their brands and relationships with consumers to develop healthier habits and improve lives while also healing the planet and boosting profits. Consumers understand and respect the fact that Unilever's brands are not only good for them, but are also good for our planet.

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