Unilever warns eco-unfriendly brands

Alan Jope, the Unilever’s chief executive who took over the company from Paul Polman early this year is committing to continuing Polman’s transformation of the company into an environmentally friendly international consumer goods corporation. His recent statements called non-Sustainable Living brands like Magnum and Pot Noodle to action, warning them that a resistance to more eco-conscious business practices would result in a loss of association with Unilever, a company that has been working to increase sustainability across the board. Despite the lack of a deadline, Jope warned that some brands, and even entire product lines could potentially be on the chopping block. He announced an informal plan to sell (and therefore cease support for) brands that do not make tangible positive contributions to society.

Since 2010, Unilever has been paying special attention to what it calls its “Sustainable Living Brands”, defined by the company as “those that are furthest ahead on the journey to achieving the company’s ambitious sustainability goals.” In 2018, the 26 Sustainable Living brands were among Unilever’s fastest growing and most profitable brands. In 2017, 70 per cent of Unilever’s growth was delivered by Sustainable Living Brands, which are said to have grown 46 per cent faster than the rest of Unilever’s sub-brands. Some of these brands cover some of the world’s most widely consumed products, including Dove, Lipton and Vaseline. While widespread reorganisation and defunding of Unilever’s product base may hurt their short-term bottom line, the speedy growth of their Sustainable Living brands is promising for the company’s long-term survival and expansion.

Unilever is conscious of the increasing environmental urgency and pressure from consumers surrounding sustainable products. In addition to the warning sent to their less sustainable sub-brands, Unilever is also looking for ways to reduce single-use plastic and wasteful product wrappers. This could spell disaster for Unilever companies like Magnum and Pot Noodle, who make widespread use of single-use, individual wrapping. These brands will either need to act fast to get on board with the changing demands of Unilever and the consumer market, or find their own footing in the marketplace without the help of the multinational parent company, Unilever.

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