When a company with a well-established supply chain enters the sustainability space, it is understandably with trepidation, and in the best-case scenario, with curiosity and a willingness to experiment. In order to drive sustainability changes, there are a plethora of places to start – from shifting consumer buying patterns, to farmers’ production practices, to corporate culture. Commonly, large multinationals rely on multiple product streams going into multiple product lines; the task to ‘green’ the entire supply chain is daunting, and the process iterative. A company must do two things over and over again. First, the company must find the appropriate tools to help prioritize a starting place. Second, once this prioritization process happens, the company must dig into an evolving toolbox of items which can drive sustainability down the supply chain and ensure compliance in the areas that the company is seeking sustainability. Finally, the company must follow these steps over and over again – capturing learning as the tools are applied – and then re-evaluating its sustainability priorities up and down the supply chain. To assist Unilever with this iterative process, Unilever requested two primary tasks. First, Unilever wanted high-level strategies and frameworks with which the company can make decisions about where to begin implementing sustainability measures across its vast supply chain. Second, Unilever asked for a discussion of ways that the company could drive sustainability down the supply chain and verify supply chain sustainability compliance, particularly in cases where Unilever did not use 3rd party certification schemes. To satisfy Unilever’s requests, our team began by researching background information on Unilever and its sustainability values and practices, using mainly external literature sources and the limited internal Unilever documents for which we had access. We also tapped into MIT’s network of sustainability experts in the Media Lab and Center for Transportation and Logistics. After several brainstorming sessions discussing various prioritization schemes that Unilever could employ, we developed a supply chain prioritization tool called the Sustainability Stakeholder Rating Tool (SSRT). Taking into account the complex supply chain ecosystem, the tool is meant to prioritize supply chain actions based on a combination of financial, social, and environmental consideration in various product lines (dairy, oil, and vegetables) from the perspective of Unilever’s main stakeholders. The culmination of these exercises is reported below and is split into four sections. First, the paper provides a background on Unilever as a company. Second, this document discusses several lenses with which Unilever may view their options to find the most optimal starting point or points to enact sustainability measures. The paper then demonstrates one such tool, Sustainability Stakeholder Rating Page 2 of 31
Tool (SSRT) and discusses how this weighting tool may be applied to three key products including dairy, vegetables, and palm oil. Following this, the document discusses various ways that Unilever may encourage sustainable supply chain compliance, verify practices, and drive sustainability down the supply chain via the innovation and still relatively new radical transparency practices of certification, crowd-sourcing, and trust -based networks. Unilever and Sustainability
Unilever, based in Rotterdam, Netherlands, owns many of the leading consumer brands in foods, beverages, cleaning agents, and personal care products. Unilever employs 163,000 people in around 100 countries and their products are sold in over 170 countries around the world.1 The top 25 brands in their portfolio account for nearly 75% of their sales. They are the global market leader in all the food categories in which they operate: Savoury, Spreads, Dressings, Tea and Ice Cream. They are also the global market leader in Mass Skin Care and Deodorants, and...
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