Unilever previously set out to halve its greenhouse gases (GHG) footprint by 2030 but altered this goal “in response to the scale and urgency of the climate crisis”.
The company said that after extensive work to reduce overall emissions throughout its supply chain, any residual emissions would be balanced through purchased or self-generated offsets.
Net zero emissions 11 years ahead of 2050 Paris Agreement deadline
Unilever said along with achieving net zero emissions by 2039, it would also communicate the carbon footprint of every product it sold worldwide, stating transparency would be “an accelerator in the global race to zero emissions”.
And achieving all this, within the timeframe laid out, it said, would require a collaborative effort with its partners across the value chain – partnerships it would prioritise enhancing.
A system would be introduced requiring all suppliers to declare the carbon footprint of goods and services provided to Unilever, for example, and methods would be introduced to standardise data collection, sharing and communication.
“The race to zero must be a collective effort, and business alone cannot drive the transition at the speed that it is required,” Unilever said.
The company called on additional help from global governments, asking for ambitious net-zero targets and short-term emissions reduction targets, along with policy frameworks such as carbon pricing that enabled change.
Unilever, alongside L'Oréal and others, was already part of the business-led One Planet Business for Diversity (OP2B) coalition as well as the United Nations' Global Compact Business Ambition for 1.5°C initiative.
The climate change focus – more important amidst COVID-19
Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever, said whilst the world continued to deal with the “devastating effects” of the COVID-19 pandemic and grappled with “serious issues of inequality”, it was important the climate crisis remained front of mind.
“Climate change, nature degradation, biodiversity decline, water scarcity – all these issues are interconnected, and we must address them all simultaneously,” Jope said.
In April, this year, during the release of the company’s Q1 results, the CEO said Unilever was focused on building business for a ‘new normal’ and noted it was “well-positioned” for the COVID-19 crisis and challenging market environment thereafter.
Unilever recently announced plans to merge its split Anglo-Dutch legal structure into a single parent company in the UK – a move made to future-proof business even further.