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How and why are we stepping up our climate advocacy?


To help deliver our ambitious climate goals, we’re stepping up our advocacy work to push for systems-level changes that address barriers to faster emissions reduction. But what does that work involve and how do we go about it?

A United Nations Climate Change Conference room.
Thomas Lingard, Global Climate Advocacy & Sustainability Strategy Director
Thomas Lingard, Unilever’s Global Head of Sustainability – Environment

As part of our Growth Action Plan – and to drive progress on sustainability outside our direct control – we’re strengthening our efforts on opportunities that require global value chain transformations, technological innovations, and public policies to make them possible and affordable.

Our updated Climate Transition Action Plan (CTAP) sets out how we’re being more systemic in our approach through deeper collaboration and more assertive policy advocacy, focusing on the areas where we can have the most impact.

We spoke to Thomas Lingard, our Global Head of Sustainability – Environment, to find out what that means in practice.

Why is advocacy so important?

We need to rewrite the rules of the global economy to support the transition to net zero. And that requires policy change.

To achieve that, businesses must be outspoken about the changes they want to see and the barriers they face. If businesses apply pressure, governments can put in place laws that level the playing field and create incentives to go further. Strong climate policies will create the right environment for businesses to act at speed and scale.

So what systemic changes do we need to see?

Our updated Climate Transition Action Plan includes asks that support economy-wide transformation as well as those that are specific to the systems of which we’re a part.

Renewable power is key to much of this transformation. So, as part of the RE100 initiative, which brings together hundreds of corporates switching to 100% renewable electricity, we’re helping to signal demand for clean energy solutions globally. Recently, RE100 has been leveraging that demand to strategically shift policy in key Asian markets.

In 2023, Unilever also signed an open letter (PDF 2 MB) calling on policymakers to triple global renewables capacity by 2030, and this was agreed by heads of state at COP28. This kind of policy change will help us transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030, and also help our suppliers to decarbonise their own operations.

What are some of our more specific asks?

Regenerative agriculture is a good example. This sustainable approach to farming is critical for our business, helping us to ensure food security and supply chain resilience through the supply of agricultural raw materials. It also contributes to reducing Unilever’s emissions.

We have a goal to implement regenerative agriculture practices on 1 million hectares of agricultural land by 2030. It’s also an important action area for delivering on our new science-based target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from forest, land and agriculture by 30.3% by 2030 versus 2021.

But we do need policies that support us to deliver. So, we’re lobbying for a regulatory landscape that helps farmers transition to and maintain regenerative practices, including incentive schemes and financial support. We’re working on this in the US, EU and India, and expanding to other geographies.

At COP28, we launched the COP28 Action Agenda on Regenerative Landscapes in partnership with the United Arab Emirates, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and High-Level Climate Champions, bringing together food systems organisations to scale up regenerative agriculture through projects in 110 countries.

Thomas Lingard speaking at the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Another example is chemicals. As the key to removing dirt and stains, they’re critical to the superior cleaning performance of our Home Care products. So, lowering the emissions linked to the chemicals we buy is an integral part of our Climate Transition Action Plan.

Following research commissioned by Unilever (PDF 2.57 MB) last year, which identified the actions needed to address the carbon emissions of everyday cleaning, laundry and home care products, we’re now calling for industry transformation. Chemical ingredients that are not made from fossil-fuel-based feedstocks need to be available at scale and competitively priced. To make this a reality, there must be integrated national policies that work together to deliver the change required.

It’s critical that we raise awareness of the challenges among external stakeholders. So, we recently hosted a panel event in Brussels – bringing together EU policymakers, and trade union and industry representatives – to discuss the policy interventions needed to reduce emissions from chemical ingredients.

We’re also driving change in India, working closely with the Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy Coalition, a G20 initiative supported by the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and housed in the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. On this platform, Unilever is chairing a working group on ‘material transition for the chemical industry’.

How do we work with coalitions and trade associations?

For our advocacy to be effective, we need support from other powerful actors to whom governments will listen. That includes cross-industry coalitions seeking to pioneer net zero pathways.

For example, we’re working with the WBCSD and the Exponential Roadmap Initiative, as well as We Mean Business Coalition’s Fossil to Clean campaign, to accelerate the clean energy transition globally.

We’re also pushing our trade associations to be more transparent about their own climate positions and statements. Earlier this year, we published our first climate policy engagement review. Where this showed room for improvement, we’re calling on them to step up.

Are you optimistic about the impact of advocacy by businesses?

Absolutely. Companies are realising the systemic nature of the challenge of reaching net zero. It’s not enough to just be using renewable energy anymore. Companies recognise that they need to have a say on any policy that governs their business, particularly if they want to deliver ambitious climate targets.

To read more about our updated commitments on climate, nature, plastics and livelihoods, visit our Sustainability Hub.

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