Unilever, consumer goods… at what cost?

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As a company Unilever represents hundreds of brands ranging from skin care, to cleaning products, to food and refreshments. Some of the most commonly known brands are Dove, Ben and Jerry’s, and Lipton. As a company, Unilever strives to maintain universal policy and expectations for all companies that it represents, however we discovered that this is easier said than done. As recent as 2017 Unilever was wrapped up in a scandal with PepsiCo, and Nestle in which all three companies were responsible for the destruction of Sumatra’s last tract of rainforest shared by elephants, orangutans, rhinos, and tigers together in one ecosystem.

deforestation in Summatra

deforestation in Sumatra

The reason for the large amount of deforestation was because of the high demand in palm oil, a product used in many staple products. Unilever is the worlds largest purchaser for palm oil. In response to the backlash Unilever received from the media and its consumers the company underwent some major policy changes..

First, in direct response to the palm oil scandal Unilever came up with a sustainable plan which allows them to be able to trace exactly where the palm oil comes from. They also are building their own plantations which will allow them to sustainably collect the amount of oil they need. The only issue with this its that these policies won’t be fully active until 2020..

Second, the company is now making a conscious effort to be transparent. Chief supplier Marc Engel said “Unilever believes that complete transparency is needed for radical transformation. We want this step to be the start of a new industry-wide movement.”

Third, in order to be transparent Unilever is moving in the right direction. Making efforts to disclose ingredient information, whats in the products, and the origin of where the products and ingredients come from.

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Unilever Products

Unilever has made huge strides in the direction of becoming transparent and repairing its image. However, these policy changes will take years to become fully effective so whether or not Unilever reaches full transparency is something we’ll have to wait and see.

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3 Responses to Unilever, consumer goods… at what cost?

  1. andrea tanzidicosola says:

    Nice post! It is hard to believe that Unilever has so many products and we don’t even realize what they did to the environment. Also, it is good to see that they are disclosing more ingredient information in their products after the destruction of Sumatra’s rainforest.

    I like the photos that you added, the rainforest and the products. It feels that it goes directly to the main point.

  2. camerin walker says:

    I love the move to companies being more transparent. I also love how these companies are pushing other companies to do the same just through their actions alone. I like how Unilever is making a sustainability change.

  3. sara lattman says:

    I’m really interested to see how Unilever continues to push transparency, especially with the palm oil. It seems very ambitious for just how many brands they manufacture so if they manage to do so, I think it will have a huge impact on the environment as well as the branded retail market.

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