Doubling their turnover while halving their environmental impact. This is no chimera, but the ambitious Sustainability Plan adopted by Unilever. The latest component is the Unilever Sustainable Agricultural Code, a shared platform for sustainable agriculture.
These efforts appear to be paying off in business terms, as the brands which already comply with the Plan’s sustainability requirements are contributing to group growth at double the rate of the others. Proof that consumers approve of this approach. We discussed it with the man at the top of the Italian subsidiary, Angelo Trocchia, Chairman and CEO of Unilever Italia.
The sustainability plan is now an intrinsic part of our mission and has fully permeated Unilever’s strategy in Italy: our four Italian plants do not send waste to landfill; they have cogeneration plants and a detailed plan for reducing water consumption. In addition, each brand is expected to make sustainability an integral part of their identity.
We felt that Algida, which is also celebrating its 70th anniversary, was the ideal brand to represent Italian-ness, as it is “the” ice cream that whole generations grew up with. It too is a brand which has sustainability in its DNA: the chocolate used for Magnum ice creams is 100 percent Rainforest Alliance certified, as is the wood for the sticks. The vanilla we use in Carte D’Or is 100 percent certified by Symrise, and all the ingredients of Ben&Jerry’s ice creams (which in the USA is actually registered as a B-Corp, i.e. a social enterprise) are fair trade certified.
We follow a very simple criterion: where there are well-respected worldwide systems, such as the Rainforest Alliance, we start the certification process with them; otherwise we draw up codes of practice which we make public. The most recent example of this is the Unilever Sustainable Agricultural Code: a self-regulating code of practice for sustainable agriculture, which we think can become a shared standard which other food and agricultural businesses can adopt.
It is a further stimulus to constantly improve the quality of our ingredients, as I was saying. However, I think that brand quality also lies in the ability to create emotions, and in this area, with products such as Cornetto and Magnum, I feel we have that special edge.
Sustainability goes hand in hand with being genuine: nowadays, managers must have a transparent style. Only if you are genuine can you ask your employees to incorporate sustainability into the business.
Personally, I am a great supporter of the Universal Exhibition. I really like it. I came to the opening ceremony and it was wonderful. I have visited some of the Pavilions and found a very nice atmosphere; I count on coming back again to see more of it.