Unilever Strives to Make Sustainable Living Commonplace

More than 10 years ago Unilever, the global consumer goods giant, moved its Western Field Sales Office to Hacienda from San Ramon to be closer to one of its largest grocery customers. Unilever's Hacienda office is responsible for managing all Unilever grocery customers west of the Rockies, including those in Alaska and Hawaii.

The 20 employees at this office sell products from Unilever's more than 400 brands into the established grocery chains that we all know. The products they sell are familiar to Tri-Valley residents and families the world over and include items such as Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Lipton tea, and Dove soap. While Unilever products are famous to those who use them, the changing business model behind them may come as a surprise.

"Unilever has a simple but clear purpose - to make sustainable living commonplace," says Michael Walton, who leads Unilever's West Division at Hacienda as Customer Development Director. "We believe this is the best long-term way for our business to grow." Or as Paul Polman, Unilever CEO, expresses it on the Unilever website: "There is no business case for enduring poverty and runaway climate change."

The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) is central to the corporation's business model. According to the corporation, the USLP has three major goals. The first is to help more than 1 billion people improve their health and wellbeing. The second is to cut the environmental footprint of Unilever products by 50%. The third is to source 100% of its agricultural raw materials in a sustainable way and to enhance the livelihoods of people across Unilever's value chain.

"What makes our company special is that we create and market brands that help improve over one billion people's lives every day globally, and we are always striving to continue to improve our brands' impact on people and the earth in a positive way," says Walton, who notes that Unilever made three exciting acquisitions in 2017: Seventh Generation, Schmidt's Naturals, and Sir Kensington's.

"All three of these companies have core principles that align with Unilever," he says. "Bringing natural and sustainably sourced products into the mainstream is critical for Unilever in order to accomplish our goal of doubling the size of our business while cutting our environmental footprint by 50%."

About five years ago Unilever announced that it was reshaping its portfolio of brands. "When Unilever acquires a new brand, we look for 'Brands with a Purpose' who also source their ingredients in natural and sustainable ways" Walton says. In 2016, Unilever's Sustainable Living brands grew 40% faster than the rest of its business.

In addition to its focus on sustainability, Unilever has also made it a goal to achieve gender balance in the workplace, according to Walton. Some 169,000 people work for Unilever globally; 46% of its managers are women. In 2017, Working Mother Media recognized Unilever as a Top 10 Best Company.

Employees at the Hacienda office "are eager volunteers" who enjoy supporting local charities as much and as often as they can, Walton says. The organizations Unilever volunteers supported in 2017 included Open Heart Kitchen in Livermore, the Ezekiel 37 Church in Tracy, and Swords to Plowshares in Oakland.

Unilever's global headquarters is located in London, England while the US headquarters is based in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. For more information about Unilever, please visit www.unilever.com .

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