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Management & implementation: Unilever’s sustainable agriculture programme
Unilever’s activity on sustainable agriculture occurs within a corporate policy framework that commits the company to ‘minimise any adverse effects on soil fertility, water and air quality, and biodiversity from agricultural activities’.
The company has developed sustainable agriculture standards, which provide guidelines for farmers. These have been developed for the crops that Unilever sources in the greatest volume, in consultation with an external advisory panel. The documents outline sustainable best management practice for each crop, against 11 sustainability indicators, which include: soil fertility/ health; soil loss; nutrients; pest management; biodiversity; value chain; energy; water; social/ human capital; local economy and animal welfare. By 2005, good practice guidelines were published for peas, spinach, palm oil and tomatoes, and requirements were incorporated into contracts with growers. These guidelines have been adopted/ adapted by companies in a number of other sectors.
In implementing these standards, the company has produced biodiversity action plans for two sites and a farmer-focused tool to assist farmers in addressing sustainability indicators, including biodiversity. The company conducts workshops with suppliers and has developed commodity specific training which includes biodiversity and ecosystem services.
In addition to managing risk, Unilever is piloting ways of realising competitive advantage. Its Brand Imprint tool which takes a 360 degree look at product impact from environmental, social and economic perspectives, and actions are developed accordingly.
Source: http://www.unilever.com (March 2009)