Top of the month: Unilever's plastics pledge shows leadership

Unilever enhanced its reputation as a leader in sustainability when it pledged to halve the amount of plastic it uses over the next five years.

Unilever CEO Alan Jope at the PRWeek UK Awards.
Unilever CEO Alan Jope at the PRWeek UK Awards.

Unilever has 400 brands globally and uses 700,000 tonnes of plastic each year. It has pledged to halve that figure by 2025 by cutting 100,000 tonnes from virgin plastic packaging and collecting more packaging than it uses, creating a ‘circular economy’ for recycled plastics.

Global chief executive Alan Jope (pictured) told the BBC it is taking the action to appeal to younger consumers who care about "purpose and sustainability". 

The move was strengthened by an endorsement from Dame Ellen MacArthur, the famous sailor and founder of an eponymous foundation that promotes sustainability.

Positive headlines continued when Unilever announced that one of its biggest brands, Dove, would roll out bottles made from 100 per cent recycled plastic "where technically feasible" by the end of this year. Other commitments include making single packs of Dove Beauty Bars plastic-free, looking to remove plastic from the wrapping, and using concentrates like Cif refills so that spray dispensers can be reused.

Also in October, Unilever’s ex-comms and sustainability chief, Sue Garrard, was inducted into the PRWeek UK Hall of Fame, receiving much praise for her actions, alongside those of former CEO Paul Polman, to position environmental purpose at the heart of the business.

It’s heartening that Polman’s successor seems determined to continue the legacy.

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