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Unilever, One of The World’s Biggest Plastic Users, Scales Back Environmental Pledges

In a move that is drawing criticism, one of the world’s biggest users of plastic packaging is scaling back its social and environmental pledges. 


Unilever, which is the owner of brands including Ben & Jerry's, Omo (Persil) and Hellmann’s, has decided to water down some of its pledges. In an interview with Bloomberg, the company’s CEO, Hein Schumacher, said that company concerns are “cyclical” and therefore change. “When you have a huge drought for a number of months but everything else is going fine, the attention is on climate. These days it’s about wars and rightly so, that’s at the forefront,” he stated. 


The news service reports that Unilever had committed to halving its use of virgin plastics by 2025. It has now changed this to cutting by a third by 2026. This, says Bloomberg, will account “…for more than 100,000 tons of fresh plastic annually.” Schumacher blamed external forces for this, including governments and retailers. 


The company is also dialling back on a pledge to pay all its direct suppliers a living wage by 2030. Instead, by 2026, the living wage will be paid to “suppliers of half of its spending on goods and services”. Two pledges on diversity have also been dropped. “I believe we need to continue to lead on it, but we need realism on what we can do and influence and where we can really make progress,” Schumacher said.


Many of the pledges were set by former CEO, Dutchman Paul Polman, who left in 2018. Schumacher told the reporters that the targets were right for the time that they were set but have become unrealistic. He stated: “I think that was a time in which they had to imagine a world in which big ambitions were possible. And that was probably right at the time, but I have to now bring it back to something that I feel we can all really deliver on. I need to drive performance in the company.” 

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