- Experts surveyed in the Globescan Sustainability Leaders report named Unilever as one of the most recognizable companies for its work to minimize its impact on the environment.
- Over 700 survey participants were asked to rank companies according to their sustainability efforts.
- The consumer goods company aims to make all of its plastic packaging recyclable by 2025.
For the tenth year in a row, global experts in Globescan’s Sustainability Leaders report, named the consumer goods juggernaut Unilever as a leader for its work to minimize its operational impact on the environment.
Over 700 experts in 71 countries from the private sector, governments and NGOs participated in the joint survey issued yearly since 1997 by the Toronto-based consulting company Globescan and its peer Sustainability.
Survey participants were asked to rank companies according to their efforts to become sustainable — with 42% of the experts viewing Unilever as a corporate leader for its work. Patagonia, the U.S. clothing apparel company, came in second place with 26% of the votes and the Swedish furniture-giant IKEA came in third place with 14% of the respondents voting for the company’s environmental record.
The report is published to create awareness and drive change in the private, public and nonprofit sector, says Eric Whan, a director at Globescan.
“Our entire mission is to drive trusted leadership for a better future,” Whan told Karma. “If we can help companies to understand how to do that, then we’re delivering both on our purpose and our mission and our values.”
Meanwhile, the respondents also added new companies to the list of progressive enterprises: software maker Microsoft and Denmark’s Ørsted, the world’s largest offshore wind company, which was recognized for fully divesting from its fossil fuel assets in 2017 and switching to renewables.
This year’s sustainability survey was conducted from May to July as the world was in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic, which highlighted shortcomings in governance and healthcare around the world and put pressure on companies to sustain their operations while safeguarding the health of their employees.
The outbreak has increased the use of single-use plastics for protective gear such as gloves and is adding to a global pollution problem, say experts. An estimated 8 million tons of plastic ends up in the world’s oceans every year, contaminating the environment and killing wildlife.
Unilever, the survey’s top company, creates packaging for its products that range from soaps to food. Some activists that focus on environmental sustainability and governance matters say the consumer goods sector has exacerbated the plastic packaging waste problem.
Still, Unilever is being recognized for its commitment to tackle the issue, says Whan.
The company has said it wants to make all of its plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Last week, it announced plans to remove fossil fuels from all its cleaning products by 2030.
Overall, respondents worried that companies might focus on the bottom line amid the economic downturn brought on by the outbreak, relegating important issues like tackling climate change to the sidelines.
Going forward, Globescan is looking to conduct the survey with more experts from underrepresented areas of the world in order to spot more global market leaders in sustainability.
“We are keen to build representation from Africa and Latin America,” Whan said. “This year, we had some great successes in increasing participation in Asia.”
Photo by Oscar Siagan/Getty Images for Unilever