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September 22, 2021

Setting a standard with sustainable living

It is todays’ buzzword: sustainable living. Building sustainable offices and homes, sustainable food products and consumption: all high on the agenda of both consumers and companies. Or is it? Many companies are making their logistics, operations and / or product and services more sustainable but find a complete change of course too risky for costs and efficiency.

As far back as 2010, shortly after the arrival of a new CEO, Unilever did however change course. Having the ambition to make sustainable living the norm in the organisation and the entire value chain, Unilever launched its Sustainable Living Plan (USPL).

Ten years after adopting USPL as the leading concept, Unilever clearly showed that sustainability and successful company results are both possible and moreover prove to be an enormous challenge to innovate. Internationally, Unilever is now a leading company in the field of sustainability.

Three main goals of Unilevers’ Sustainable Living Plan

Unilevers’ blueprint for impact on society focuses on three very ambitious main goals

1.     Improved health and wellbeing for 1 billion people by 2030;

2.     Halve the ecological footprint of Unilevers’ products by 2030;

3.     Procurement of 100 % sustainable agricultural commodities and improving the standard of living in of people in Unilevers’ value change.


These 3 main goals are supported by over 70 time based sub goals.

Unilevers’ lessons for your company

Even if your company is not Unilevers’ size, you can still learn from its experiences:

1.     Set the tone at the top. From the start, you need a strong vision and leadership that inspires employees to achieve the company’s objectives of impact on society

2.     A clear concept. Implement a focused programme with goals and sub goals that can be measured. All employees, from boardroom to shop floor, should know what is expected of him or her. The Owls Breakthrough Method© is an excellent method to help achieve this.

3.     Long term planning. Unilevers’ Sustainable Living Plan is consistently applied so formulated goals can be achieved. Lesson: your vision and mission must be consistently applied, it must show everywhere. And remember that change takes time.

4.     Define the final product value. By defining how your products should increase your customers’ wellbeing, you create the challenge to find creative solutions. Unilever for example has 22 so called more sustainable brands and they are growing 70 % faster than less sustainable brands. Take soap brand Lifebuoy: it is used in developing countries to motivate children and adults to improve hygiene by washing hands and so reduce for example child mortality.

Right now you have a window of opportunity to make your product or service more sustainable. You do not want to miss this chance!

Read Unilevers’ case study, click here.

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About 10 year USPL, click here.

In our next blog we look at how Royal Van Oord, a Dutch company and one of the largest dredging companies in the world, deals with innovation and breakthrough processes.

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