Unilever invests in sustainability

The consumer products company Unilever has announced more programmes as it moves towards being a more sustainable business. It has published details of a range of research projects in the areas of waste, water and health. This forms part of the ‘Open Innovation’ initiative, in which potential collaborators are invited to work with the firm’s research & development team to develop innovations.

The company has ambitions to double the size of its business while reducing its environmental impact. This is in line with the Radical Shift philosophy that sustainability can make good business sense in purely commercial terms (see Case Study section, here).

Open Innovation director Roger Leech said: ‘Smart collaboration with partners gives both parties the freedom to do business in new and invigorating ways – creating shared value along the way.  It brings together the expertise and experience of our sustainable innovation capability with new thinking and creativity from partners, creating new business models in which ideas flourish.’

Key areas of focus include; technologies which bring safe water to the poor communities, and the development of lighter and more environmentally friendly packaging . It is also looking to develop laundry products that can be used at lower temperatures and use less water.

Paul Polman, chief executive of Unilever, shocked the business world in November 2010 when he announced that he was no longer interested in attracting short-term investors.


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