Agricultural sourcing partnerships

We work with others in the food industry to make progress in sustainable agriculture.

We involve stakeholders (non-governmental organisations, research institutes, agricultural experts and community organisations) in all aspects of our Sustainable Agriculture Programme. This helps us, for example, to develop indicators and assess our Lead Agriculture Programmes.

Sustainable Sourcing Advisory Board

Our Sustainable Sourcing Advisory Board (SSAB) includes external experts, academics and representatives from NGOs. Its role is to advise Unilever on the key aspects of sustainable sourcing of raw materials and the various areas that make up sustainability in Unilever’s value chains. This includes everything from climate impact, biodiversity and water stress, to labour conditions, poverty alleviation and the use of chemicals. An important aspect of its role will be to identify and explore potential connections with similar initiatives in other companies, sectors and research institutes, and with governments, multi-lateral organisations and civil society organisations.

The Board was established in 2011 and replaces our previous Sustainable Agriculture Advisory Board that was established in 2000. The new group reflects the broader expertise needed to help deliver our Sustainable Living Plan targets. See Governance for more information.

Members are selected for their individual expertise, rather than to represent their organisations. Member biographies can be found in the download section of Related links. As we develop our thinking on sustainable sourcing, we will review the roles and responsibilities of our internal teams and external advisory.

Sustainable Sourcing Advisory Board members




Janet Barber

Forum for the Future


David Bright

Oxfam GB


Colin Chartres

Internation Water Management Institute

Sri Lanka

Alan Knight



Christophe Liebon


Hong Kong

Richard Perkins



Rudy Rabbinge

University of Wageningen


Tang Huajan

Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences


Camilla Toulmin

International Institute for Environment and Development


Anne Wallin

Dow Chemical Europe


Tensie Whelan

Rainforest Alliance


Tom BurkeRio TintoUK

Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform

What can be achieved at farm level by Unilever alone is limited. We need the co-operation of others in the food industry to make progress in sustainable agriculture.

That is why we worked with Nestlé and Danone to establish the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform (SAI Platform) in 2002. The initiative today involves more than 40 companies from the food and beverage industry.

It aims to develop knowledge about sustainable agriculture and communicate widely with a range of stakeholders.

The SAI Platform has working groups on four commodity areas: dairy, arable and vegetable crops, coffee and fruit. Another working group addresses water-related issues. Unilever is an active member of most of the working groups.

Progress includes the development of an online database of best practice in water management. The SAI Platform also played a key role in establishing a Global Dairy Agenda for Action on Climate Change.

Roundtable on sustainable Palm Oil

Unilever was one of the founders of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) – an industry-led initiative set up in co-operation with the conservation organisation WWF in 2004. NGO partners include Oxfam and Sawit Watch. Unilever’s Global Director of Sustainable Sourcing Development chairs the executive board. The Roundtable works with plantation owners and commercial users to devise standards for sustainable production.

See Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil for more on our involvement.

Round Table on Responsible soy Association

We are members of the Round Table on Responsible Soy Association (RTRS), which seeks to establish agreed Principles and Criteria for responsible soy production. Our Global Director Sustainable Sourcing Development sits on the executive board and other Unilever people contribute their knowledge to the expert chain of custody certification group.

See Sustainable soy & oils for more on our involvement.


Unilever has purchased its first Bonsucro sustainable sugar credits in Brazil and was the first-ever Bonsucro member to do so. Working with Usina São João, Unilever purchased 3,262 tonnes of Bonsucro sustainable sugar credits in Brazil when the credit platform opened for business in December 2012. While Unilever is not a major player in the global sugar cane stakes, accounting for just 0.26% of the market, the credit purchase highlights Unilever’s commitment to reducing the environmental and social impacts of sugar cane production.

Bonsucro is a not-for-profit initiative dedicated to reducing the environmental and social impacts of sugar cane production. The Bonsucro Standard defines a set of globally applicable principles, criteria and indicators for sugar cane production.

It aims to reduce the impact of sugar cane production on the environment in measurable ways, while also contributing to social and economic benefits for sugar cane farmers and all concerned with the sugar supply chain.

Bonsucro engages stakeholders in a credible and transparent standard-setting process that takes into account local conditions and circumstances and ensures a focus on sustainability.

Our achievements in fish sustainability

In 1996 we co-founded the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) with the conservation organisation WWF to establish a global standard for sustainable fisheries management.

In 2006 we sold a large part of our frozen foods business, including our European fish business. Our Italian frozen foods business, Findus, was subsequently sold in July 2010. The sale comprised the leading brands: 4 Salti in Padella, Sofficini, Capitan Findus and That’s Amore, and a dedicated factory in Cisterna, Italy.

We are proud of what we achieved between 1996 and 2006. Although we were not able to reach our 100% sustainable sourcing target, there continue to be encouraging signs that consumers are making the connection between their food choices and the goal of sustainable sourcing. Retailers including Tesco, Walmart, Sainsbury’s and Carrefour, as well as many foodservice companies, now source from MSC-certified fisheries and worldwide thousands of seafood products now bear the MSC ecolabel.

Accelerating sustainable agricultural growth

In January 2011 a global partnership to accelerate sustainable agricultural growth was announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Unilever joined 16 other companies – among them Walmart, The Coca-Cola Company, Nestlé and Kraft Foods – to support the New Vision for Agriculture. The partnership is backed by a coalition of businesses, governments and farmers, and seeks to improve food security, environmental sustainability and economic opportunity around the world.

The partnership’s aims echo those of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan in many ways. Its targets include decreasing greenhouse gas emissions per tonne by 20%, reducing rural poverty by 20% each decade and increasing production by 20%.

In Tanzania, we have co-chaired a public–private partnership initiative with the Tanzanian government which reflects the aims of the new vision. We helped to launch a ‘blueprint’ for the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) programme at Davos with the aim of transforming the area’s agricultural productivity.

As part of the programme, 350,000 hectares of land between Tanzania’s port of Dar es Salaam through Malawi, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo are set to become some of Africa’s richest farmland. Tens of thousands of smallholder farmers along the corridor will have the chance to become commercial farmers with access to modern irrigation facilities, assuring local food security and creating at least 420,000 new employment opportunities in the agricultural value chain.

Funded by investment from Unilever and a range of global businesses, government agencies, farmers, foundations and other donors, SAGCOT’s targets are to generate annual farming revenues of $1.2 billion, while lifting more than 2 million local people permanently out of poverty. This model has also been extended to Vietnam where, working in collaboration with the Vietnamese government, we are partnering to develop sustainable tea production.

The global challenge of food security

During 2011 we have engaged in international discussions on the issue of food security. A complex set of factors such as fuel costs, weather patterns, trade policy and changing consumer demand have an influence on the price and availability of food. In recent years, many of these factors have led to spikes in food commodity prices which in turn has been linked to social unrest and increased hunger in many countries.

The private sector has a role to play in mitigating the impacts of food price volatility. Unilever has engaged in several senior business working groups on food security under the World Economic Forum and G20. See Public Policy & Advocacy for more on our activities.