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Unilever MENA celebrates first year of Sustainable Living Plan

Unilever hosted a special conference to update its stakeholders and partners on the 1st year achievements of its Sustainable Living Plan in the MENA region.

Unilever, one of the world’s leading FMCG companies and owner of global brands such as Dove and Lifebuoy, hosted a special conference to update its stakeholders and partners on the 1st year achievements of its Sustainable Living Plan in the MENA region. The event, held at ‘The Palace’ hotel in Downtown Dubai, welcomed Unilever’s regional partners and recognized their efforts in sustainability practices through an award ceremony held during the conference.

The event highlighted key milestones for Unilever MENA where its sustainability partners presented their initiatives. The MENA plan is modelled after the global Unilever Sustainable Living Plan first launched in 2010.

Understanding the need to lead the way with sustainable growth, Unilever launched its global Sustainable Living Plan with the vision of doubling the size of the business, whilst reducing its environmental footprint and increasing its positive social impact. The global plan calls for improving the health and wellbeing of a billion people, enhancing the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands, and halving the company's global environmental footprint by 2020.

To improve the health & hygiene.

In line with the needs of the region and with the objective of meeting the global targets, the Unilever MENA Sustainable Living Plan aims to improve the health and hygiene of over 50 million people, enhance the livelihoods of thousands of people and halve its environmental footprint.

“As a business we do not have the luxury of choosing between growth and sustainability; we have to have both. We need to grow if we are to have the money, people and technology to invest in alternative energies, sustainable agriculture and innovations. But we need to find a ‘new’ way to grow. Unilever MENA recognises that sustainable business growth can only be achieved through equitable practices that are environmentally viable and also contribute to overall prosperity.” said Sanjiv Mehta, Chairman, Unilever North Africa Middle East.

The event celebrated the first year of Unilever’s MENA Sustainable Living Plan, highlighting how the plan has contributed to the growth of Unilever's business in the MENA region while effectively contributing to socio-environmental betterment. A focus on improving hygiene for a better quality of life has led to a 15.1 percent increase in sales of Lifebuoy products and a 7.7 percent increase in sales of Signal toothpaste between 2011 and 2012.

Partnership

On the environmental front, Unilever has been focusing on water conservation in partnership with DEWA in Dubai, and KAHRAMAA in Doha. It has also partnered with leading hypermarkets such as Lulu to raise consumer awareness for reduced water consumption and better waste management in laundry and skin care via education and the introduction of innovations.

Unilever MENA has also been introducing eco-efficiency practices to its manufacturing processes, resulting in reduced GHG, water and waste. Manufacturing optimisation has seen a 23 percent drop in carbon dioxide per tonne of production, while water and waste have dropped 13 percent and 41 percent per tonne respectively.

The company is also on track with meeting its commitments towards sustainably sourcing all of its tea, palm oil and paper board by 2020. Today 50 percent of tea, and 75 percent of paper and board are sustainably sourced by Unilever MENA, with these proportions expected to increase in the coming years. Unilever Mena has been able to cross its targets for Palm Oil securing 100 percent of it from sustainably certified plantations in 2012.

‘Baqala’ programme

Under the pillar of enhancing livelihoods, Unilever MENA has launched the ‘Baqala’ programme across the Gulf to enhance livelihoods by providing grocery owners and entrepreneurs with the training and skills required to run their shops effectively.

Project ‘ZEINAB’

In Egypt, project ‘ZEINAB’ is empowering Egyptian women by creating job opportunities through the provision of Unilever product startup baskets and small business skills training. ‘ZEINAB’ started in June 2012 with a pilot programme of 50 women from one of Alexandria’s poorest rural areas. The women were taught to read and write, and offered training by Unilever sales experts on ways to promote Unilever products and sell door to door to generate a sustainable income for themselves and their families. By end of 2012, a total of 1000 women were fully operating under the ‘ZEINAB’ programme.

Project ‘Safeer’

Unilever MENA has also launched project ‘Safeer’ in the Delta region of Egypt. The project recruits and trains unemployed young men to become Unilever’s salesmen and provides them with an assortment pack of Unilever’s products specifically tailored for rural areas.

“The Middle East is prospering and developing rapidly, but is still confronted by challenges. Unilever MENA acknowledges this, and is working with its partners to raise awareness at the consumer level by educating them and changing their habits, while also optimising manufacturing and sourcing processes. The key challenges for Unilever MENA include reducing the environmental impact across the entire value chain, scaling up livelihood programmes and changing consumer behaviour in the long term to further sustainable living,” added Mehta.

The Unilever MENA Sustainable Living Plan - 1st year update also included an awards and recognition ceremony, where Unilever MENA's sustainability partners took the stage and talked about their collaborative efforts. Key public and private sector influencers including Dubai Municipality, Dubai Water and Electricity authority (DEWA), Carrefour, Lulu, Spinneys, Choithrams, Abu Dhabi Co-operative Society., KAHRAMAA-Qatar, Union of Cooperative Societies-Kuwait, Tamkeen-Bahrain and Bahrain’s Specific Council for Training in Retail, analysed their efforts towards equitability and sustainability.

“We are delighted to have been joined in our efforts by like-minded partners who recognise the need to grow sustainably. Such long-term partnerships and effective collaborations are essential to develop a virtuous cycle of positive knock-on effects derived by sustainably-led growth, reduced waste and sustainable innovation. This event is a platform to update stakeholders on what has already been achieved, and consider concrete future steps to achieve our key objectives by 2020.Simultaneously, it is a chance to celebrate our partners’ commitment and efforts towards sustainable living for all,” Mehta concluded.

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