Each April, we celebrate “Earth Day” – which has evolved into a time to acknowledge all the work that has been done to protect our environment and to continually raise awareness of the challenges that remain. In some ways, however, every day is “Earth Day” at Unilever because, as a company, we are committed to making sustainable living commonplace. Under our business model, which we call the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, our vision is to double the size of our business while increasing positive social impact and halving our environmental footprint. Protecting our planet and ensuring prosperity for future generations is at the heart of everything we’re working to achieve.
To realize our vision, we will lead our company for responsible growth, inspiring other companies and people to take action. As a leader in the food industry, the issue of hunger – both globally and in our local communities – demands our attention. The reality that 49 million people in the United States are food insecure while 70 billion pounds of food goes to waste each year is one that needs to be addressed. That’s why we are committed to working with Feeding America to end hunger by reducing waste sent to landfills and instead rescuing food that can be donated to local food banks to help feed families in need.
In 2013, we joined industry leaders and the Food Waste Reduction Alliance as founding partners of the USDA’s Food Waste Challenge to continue developing ways to reduce the amount of food that is wasted and recover that food towards more sustainable purposes including donating to those in need.
Through this partnership, we have developed a process to ensure excess inventory is donated rather than wasted. Using this established system we have been able to recover more than 42 million pounds of food and personal care products since 2004 and donate them Feeding America. Additionally, our Unilever sites across the country are committed to working with their local Feeding America food banks to help eliminate food waste through food drives, community gardens and partnering with vendors that reflect our shared goal. For example, at our Englewood Cliffs, NJ headquarters, we have donated nearly 4,000 pounds of food since 2011 through our vendor Sodexo from our cafeteria to the local Community Food Bank of New Jersey.
While food waste is a growing concern, waste comes in many different forms so it is important to us, as a company, to reduce our environmental footprint by eliminating all waste. In April 2013, we reached zero-waste-to-landfill at all of our owned facilities in North America. We continue to challenge the status quo to further this initiative with partner facilities. This year, we also reached zero-waste-to-landfill at all of Unilever’s owned facilities globally.
While we have made great strides across the industry to reduce waste, we cannot stop until we live in a world where safe food that would have otherwise gone to waste has been placed on the plates of those in need and no one feels the pain of hunger. Partnership and collaboration with dedicated partners like Feeding America will be key to building a better future for our planet and the people living in it.
*Kees Kruythoff is the President of Unilever North America.