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unilever case study supply chain

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unilever case study supply chain

How Technology Makes Continuous Innovation Possible: A Case Study with Unilever

Supply Chain Planning | By Nilufer Durak • 10/05/2023

End-to-End Supply Chain Planning

In the corridors of Unilever, a team of dedicated supply chain planners from demand to supply to transportation embarks on a daily journey. Their day doesn’t begin with traditional routines but with diving deep into a digital universe where data alerts serve as guiding stars. With the E2E exception-base autonomous planning, the system automates decisions from demand forecasts, production plans, and order fulfillment strategies to delivery with minimal need for manual intervention.

This is not eliminating the planners entirely but focusing their attention where it’s best. Planners are empowered with more free time to focus on more value-adding strategic and tactical decisions by evaluating Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) dashboards, and when their attention is required, the system will alert them automatically.

unilever case study supply chain

At the core of this transformative tale lie three indispensable assets: Digital, the foundation of the platform providing a single source of truth for the entire organization; Intelligent, the infusion of AI and machine learning, transforming raw data into actionable insights, empowering Unilever to predict market trends, anticipate demands, and stay ahead of the ever-shifting market landscape; and Autonomous, the pinnacle where end-to-end supply chain decisions are made seamlessly, free from human touch.

End-to-End Supply Chain Planning Platform

unilever case study supply chain

The end-to-end process begins with data. Automatic data diagnostics ensures the quality of the data it receives, fixes the inconsistencies where it can, and alerts the planners in case their attention is required. The result is an end-to-end planning process operating on the highest quality data possible.

Then, Demand Planning, driven by AI, predicts market fluctuations by analyzing demand drivers, including weather, market dynamics, and new products, providing forecasts that minimize the need for overrides and provide insights to enable data-driven decisions. Supply Planning crafts production plans that optimize available capacity and resources, not just optimal but synchronized with operational constraints, ensuring the right product mix at the right time and cost.

Customer Service Fulfillment becomes an art of efficiency, with real-time data optimizing replenishment, allocation, and truckload fill. The system allocates stock based on various parameters, enhancing service and volume maximization, enabling 100% autonomous planning!

Transportation Planning streamlines the intricate web of logistics by ensuring efficient truck planning, reducing fulfillment time and the carbon footprint. With such a level of sophistication and precision delivered by automated recommendations, 90% of them are executed as is, and planners focus only on exceptions.


Through this transformation, Unilever has achieved multiple milestones.

unilever case study supply chain

Centralized Demand Planning became the cornerstone that streamlined operations, leading to not just efficiency but an alignment across functions across the entire organization. Advanced Analytics provides the Unilever team with automatic insights, enabling Unilever to gaze into the future with clarity, foreseeing market trends, and preparing for every twist and turn in the market landscape.

Real-time Visibility gives the team a bird’s-eye-view of the entirety of the operations, allowing for faster decision-making, erasing data silos, and fostering collaboration among teams previously isolated in their individual silos. End-to-end synchronized Planning ensured every cog in the machinery moved in perfect unison, creating a workflow so seamless that it felt like a choreographed dance.

Finally, for the cherry on top, Unilever adopted Goal Programming, which allows the company to set multiple objectives, model constraints simultaneously as opposed to a pre-selected order, and generate an optimal plan that considers all objectives. This process prevents the functions from working against each other and considers the impact of every decision on the whole chain.

Continuous Innovation Is the Core of Successful Partnerships

At the end of the day, if the environment for continuous improvement and proactive innovation is not present, even the best of technologies lose relevance in today’s dynamic setting.

The key here is high user acceptance rates, streamlined workflows, reduced manual intervention, and enabling Unilever to achieve the holy grail of supply chain management: exception-based, no-touch planning. It’s a testament to the power of collaboration, innovation, and unwavering dedication to efficiency. It’s not just about machines and algorithms; it’s about the people who understand the soul of the supply chain, who breathe life into every line of code, transforming it from mere instructions into a symphony of efficiency.

End-to-end decision automation is not a distant vision for giants like Unilever but also for mid-market companies.  You, too can make innovation a way of life, not just a buzzword.

End-to-End Supply Chain Planning

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Unilever’s Global Supply Chain Reboot: Zero100 Case Study

In this episode, juan carlos parada.

Global Head of Customer Operations, Unilever

Simon Smith

Vice President of Customer Experience, Unilever

Navdeep Singh

Vice President of Customer Operations, Southeast Asia, Unilever

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Vice President of Customer Operations, Africa, Unilever

Regina Montes

Lead for Customer Experience, Mexico, Unilever

Mike Silverman (Host)

Research Director, Zero100

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This podcast features conversations between Zero100 and a rotating cast of thought leaders and industry experts sharing their views on challenges related to current events in supply chain, and how solving these challenges brings the world closer to a zero percent carbon, 100% digital future.

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More episodes, 22. procurement’s evolving role in the future of supply chain – in conversation with john dickson, former chief procurement officer at astrazeneca, 21. new tech brings new strategies: how planning and execution are more connected, 20. ai-powered delivery logistics: zero100 x deliveroo case study, press inquiry.

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An Insight into Unilever Supply Chain Strategy

Unilever Supply Chain Strategy A Look Inside

Unilever is one of the world’s largest consumer goods companies, and its success is largely due to its sophisticated supply chain strategy. Unilever supply chain strategy is based on three pillars: supply chain optimization, digitalization and automation. In this blog post, we will explore Unilever supply chain strategy in more detail and discuss the benefits…

Unilever is one of the world’s largest consumer goods companies, and its success is largely due to its sophisticated supply chain strategy. Unilever supply chain strategy is based on three pillars: supply chain optimization, digitalization and automation. In this blog post, we will explore Unilever supply chain strategy in more detail and discuss the benefits it has provided to the company. We will also provide an overview of the research and resources that have helped Unilever develop and improve its supply chain strategy.

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Table of Contents

Unilever Supply Chain Strategy

Unilever is a leading global consumer goods company that has been in business for almost 100 years. It is a leader in the production of food, personal care, and household products that are sold in over 190 countries. Unilever has become one of the most successful companies in the world through its supply chain strategy.

Unilever chose to focus on building relationships with its suppliers, which has enabled it to develop a reliable and consistent supplier base. This has enabled the company to reduce costs and ensure quality products. Unilever’s supplier relationships are based on mutual trust and respect, which has allowed the company to build long-term partnerships with its suppliers. Unilever also works with suppliers to develop innovative solutions to reduce costs, improve quality, and increase efficiency.

Unilever also has a focus on sustainability, which includes its efforts to reduce waste and emissions. The company is committed to using sustainable packaging, reducing water usage, and using renewable energy. Additionally, Unilever has implemented a number of initiatives to reduce its environmental impact. This includes the use of renewable energy sources, sustainable forestry, and the use of recycled materials.

Unilever also has a focus on innovation and product development. The company invests heavily in research and development, which has enabled it to develop new products and processes that have improved its supply chain. Unilever aims to continually innovate and improve its products and processes to remain competitive in the global market.

To summarise, Unilever supply chain strategy is based on building strong relationships with its suppliers, focusing on sustainability, and investing in innovation and product development. This has enabled the company to become one of the most successful companies in the world.

But in general Unilever supply chain strategy is based on three pillars: supply chain optimization, digitalization and automation. We will explain each one below.

Supply Chain Optimization

Supply chain optimization is a key element of Unilever supply chain strategy. The company uses analytics and data-driven insights to identify opportunities for cost savings and efficiency improvements in its supply chain. Unilever supply chain optimization initiatives include streamlining processes, eliminating waste, and reducing inventory levels. These strategies enable Unilever to reduce costs and boost profits.


Digitalization is another important element of Unilever supply chain strategy. The company has invested heavily in digital technologies to improve its supply chain operations. Unilever has implemented a number of digital solutions such as robotic process automation, predictive analytics, and blockchain technology . By leveraging digital technologies, Unilever can gain real-time visibility into its supply chain operations and make informed decisions quickly and accurately.

Automation is the third pillar of Unilever’s supply chain strategy. The company has implemented a range of automated solutions to streamline operations and reduce costs. Automation technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning in logistics have enabled Unilever to automate mundane tasks, improve efficiency, and reduce human error. Unilever also uses automation to manage its supply chain inventory more effectively.

In conclusion, Unilever supply chain strategy is based on supply chain optimization, digitalization, and automation. These three pillars have enabled the company to become one of the most successful and innovative companies in the world. Unilever supply chain strategy has enabled the company to reduce costs, boost profits, and remain competitive in the global market.

In the previous blogs, we looked into the supply chains of famous and leading companies, which you can read about each of them in the section below.

Benefits of Unilever Supply Chain Strategy

Unilever is one of the world’s leading companies in the consumer goods industry, producing a diverse range of products in multiple countries. Over the years, Unilever has developed a successful supply chain strategy that has allowed the company to remain competitive and maintain its competitive advantage. The benefits of Unilever’s supply chain strategy can be seen in its ability to reduce costs, improve efficiency and customer service, and increase its market share.

Firstly, Unilever supply chain strategy has helped the company reduce costs. Unilever has established a global network of suppliers, which has enabled the company to source materials and products from multiple sources at lower prices. This has resulted in a reduction in overall costs, which has allowed the company to remain competitive in the industry. Additionally, Unilever supply chain strategy has enabled the company to reduce its carbon footprint by using sustainable sources for its supplies. This has helped the company to reduce its environmental impact and meet its environmental goals.

Secondly, Unilever supply chain strategy has helped the company to improve efficiency and customer service . By utilizing a global network of suppliers, Unilever has been able to reduce lead times and improve its responsiveness to customer demand. This has resulted in improved customer service and satisfaction, as customers have been able to receive their orders more quickly. Additionally, Unilever supply chain strategy has enabled the company to reduce the risk of stock-outs, as the company has been able to ensure that its products are consistently available to its customers.

Finally, Unilever supply chain strategy has helped the company to increase its market share. By improving its efficiency and customer service, Unilever has been able to build a strong customer base, which has helped the company to increase its market share. Additionally, Unilever supply chain strategy has enabled the company to reduce the cost of its products, which has allowed the company to offer competitive prices and attract more customers.

In conclusion, Unilever supply chain strategy has been instrumental in its success as a global consumer goods company. By focusing on supply chain optimization, digitalization and automation, Unilever has been able to reduce costs, increase efficiency and improve customer satisfaction. Unilever’s approach demonstrates the importance of a well-planned and well-executed supply chain strategy in achieving success.

What is Unilever’s supply chain strategy?

Unilever’s supply chain strategy is focused on creating a more efficient and agile supply chain that is sustainable and resilient. This includes leveraging digital technologies to reduce costs, improve transparency and traceability, and enhance customer experience.

How does Unilever ensure the sustainability of its supply chain?

Unilever is committed to sustainability across its supply chain and takes a holistic approach to reduce its environmental impact. This includes making sure that materials are sourced responsibly, reducing waste, and investing in renewable energy, among other initiatives.

What new technologies are Unilever using to improve its supply chain?

Unilever is using a range of new technologies, from AI and blockchain to predictive analytics and IoT, to improve its supply chain operations. This includes automating processes and creating more efficient forecasting and logistics systems.

How does Unilever manage its global supply chain?

Unilever has a global supply chain that spans over 100 countries, and it is managed using a combination of centralized and decentralized models. This allows the company to benefit from economies of scale while also having the flexibility to tailor operations to local markets.

What are the key elements of Unilever’s supply chain strategy?

The key elements of Unilever’s supply chain strategy are agility, sustainability, innovation, customer focus, and efficiency. These elements are helping the company improve its operations and create value for its stakeholders.

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An Insight into Unilever Supply Chain Strategy

Supply Risk Management at Unilever: Managing Spend at Risk

This case study serves to discuss a class of risk management strategies in supply chains. It underlines the importance of seeing supply risk management in its whole context encompassing the following parametres: - Operating decisions, affecting the supply profile for the commodity in question, including inventory choices, lot-sizing, cost-service tradeoffs, number of and supply chain design. - Procurement decisions, affecting the supply profile for the commodity in question, such as cover policy constraints, regional vs. global procurement, open costing procedures, etc. - Additional hedging decisions related to the commodity in question, such as taking positions in correlated markets.

The objective is to discuss a class of risk management strategies in supply chains, with a particular focus on financial hedging tools designed to limit procurement exposure (i.e., control the maximum spend) within the context of highly volatile commodity markets). More specifically, the case is concerned with teaching: - The necessity of managing financial risk in the commodity markets: drivers of cost/benefit - A description of financial hedging instruments (and the pre-requisites) - The valuation of instruments such as call options and swaps through Monte Carlo simulation - Trade-offs between expected spend versus exposure (i.e., the efficient frontier) with a particular application in plastics (HDPE) - Implementation challenges for hedging instruments

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unilever case study supply chain

Case Study: A Vision for Unilever

In 2009, the multinational company Unilever adopted a new strategic vision that integrated societal and environmental responsibilities. The company's Sustainable Living Plan was the center of this strategy. This plan aims to help more than a billion people improve their health and wellbeing, decouple Unilever's growth from its environmental impact, increase its social impact, and enhance the livelihoods of all those involved in its supply chain. Read this chapter to discover how Unilever merged sustainability with profitable growth.

What steps did Unilever take to re-engineer the company and implement the Sustainable Living Plan successfully? How did sustainable innovation play a role in helping Unilever achieve its goals? What were the results?

Vision and Concept

Polman's vision for Unilever was rooted in the company's history. William Lever had always seen Lever Brothers as much more than a vehicle for making money for himself: he saw no trade-off between seeking to make a profit and seeking to improve society. Its products helped to improve public health and hygiene, and the company treated its employees with dignity and respect. After it became Unilever and grew into a multinational corporation, it continued to make everyday products and to treat its employees well. But when Polman took over, he decided to refashion Unilever so that social responsibility moved from an important facet of the company to become its driving force. He had always seen business as needing to play an important role in the development of a more just and equal society. 

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, other factors had to be taken into account: climate change, globalization, population growth, scarcer natural resources, greater individual wealth, an expanding middle class in both the developed and developing worlds, more informed and demanding customers, and more active shareholders.

An important response popular at the time to address this combination of factors was the philosophy of "frugal innovation", defined as the ability to do more with less, creating increased business and social value while minimizing the use of ever-diminishing resources. One way of doing so is to strip non-essential and unnecessary items out of everyday products, such as cars and mobile telephones, to make them cheaper and more available to the less affluent and to the ecologically aware. 

Paul Polman showed his commitment to this philosophy by writing the Foreword to the book Frugal Innovation: How To Do Better With Less, written by two pioneers of the concept, Navi Radjou, and Jaideep Prabhu, and published in 2015 by The Economist and Profile Books, London. He wrote: "The insatiable demand for ever higher quality products will continue to rise while at the same time the availability of the resources needed to satisfy that demand will remain constrained. Reconciling this apparent conflict is rapidly emerging as one of the biggest business challenges of our age". 

He concluded: "By combining the frugal ingenuity of developing nations with the advanced R&D [research and development] capabilities of advanced economies, companies can create high-quality products and services that are affordable, sustainable and benefit humanity".

In 2010, Unilever unveiled the new concept through which it would apply Polman's vision: its Sustainable Living Plan, which would be applied to every aspect of the company's operations, from top to bottom. Launching the plan, Polman summarized its ambitions: "We have to develop new ways of doing business which will increase the positive social benefits arising from Unilever's activities while at the same time reducing our environmental impacts. We want to be a sus tainable business in every sense of the word". But, he added, "We do not believe there is a conflict between sustainability and profitable growth".

In 2010, Unilever unveiled the new concept through which it would apply Polman's vision: its Sustainable Living Plan, applied to every aspect of the company's operations.

He outlined vision, strategy, and targets: "Our vision is to create a better future in which people can improve their quality of life without increasing their environmental footprint. Our strategy is to increase our social impact by ensuring that our products meet the needs of people everywhere for balanced nutri tion, good hygiene, and the confidence  which comes from having clean clothes and good skin.

"We recognise that, to live within the natural limits of the planet, we have to decouple growth from environmental impact. This starts with our own operations. We now send zero waste to landfill across our entire global factory network, cut CO2 from energy by 47% per tonne of production in our operations, many of our factories run on renewable energy and we'll be carbon positive by 2030. 

"However, our impact goes beyond our factory gates. The sustainable sourcing of raw materials and the use of our products by the consumer at home have a far larger footprint. That's why our plan is designed to reduce our impacts across the whole lifecycle of our products. Innovation and technology will be the key to achieving these reductions".

Polman announced three hugely ambitious targets as a part of the USLP: to help more than a billion people take action to improve their health and wellbeing by 2020; to decouple Unilever's growth from its environmental impact by 2030, achieving absolute reductions across the product lifecycle and halving its environmental footprint; and enhancing the livelihoods of "hundreds of thousands" of people involved in its supply chain by 2020.

Polman himself has always had a strong personal moral compass, stemming from his upbringing as one of the six children of a Catholic family in Enschede, Netherlands. As a teenager he considered becoming a priest and then a doctor before deciding on a business career. Just as importantly, he recognised that in the first decades of the twenty-first century a growing number of customers, both actual and potential, were becoming more concerned about the quality of life than mere consumerism and the pursuit of material things, and buying into the notion of sustainability. 

Polman told us: "Consumers are asking for it and citizens are asking for it. The circular economy and issues like climate change are becoming more and more relevant. People want to have food that is more natural or organic. People are moving from a concept of 'my world' to 'our world'. Millennials are more purpose-driven". That also applies to Unilever's own staff. "We have no problem attracting millennials: about 50 percent of the people who work for Unilever are millennials. And they want to make a difference in life. There is absolutely no question about it: they are an engine for change".

The other key element making sustainability possible is technology. "Technology has developed very rapidly and is opening up new possibilities. Electric vehicles are one example: very soon electric vehicles will be more popular than internal combustion engines. 

At Unilever we find that moving to zero waste in our factories and shifting to renewable energy makes economic sense. Increasingly data shows that companies operating more responsibly tend to perform better because they reflect the needs of society better. They probably set more realistic targets, they make more data public, which lowers the cost of capital, and so on.

"Implementing our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan is not that difficult, as long as we are all aligned on the direction we need to take and why it needs to be done. But what you need to focus on is the speed and skill of implementation.

"What we find is that our brands with a social purpose are an enormous engine for innovation. Our Sustainable Living Brands, as we call them, grow 70 percent faster than the rest of our portfo lio. An example is in water-scarce regions, such as parts of Africa, where rinsing out the soap suds from laundry accounts for around 70 percent of domestic water use.

"It is really the energy that comes from people in terms of having a meaning, having a purpose, that drives innovation".

With our Sunlight soap brand we developed a new anti-foam molecule called SmartFoam which breaks down suds more quickly. This reduces the amount of water needed, as well as speeding up the process of rinsing. People prefer that product, they see the multiple benefits, and the brand grows by addressing a societal problem.

"Take Domestos, or Domex as it is called in India, our toilet-cleaning product. If you just sell toilet-cleaning products, that is not a very exciting thing. But if you address open defecation, suddenly you start to innovate quite differently. For example, we have just launched the first small powder sachet, Domex Toilet Powder. The brand provides an affordable toilet-cleaning solution to consumers. And not surprisingly the brand is growing. 

"Or take Lifebuoy soap, with its mission to help a child reach the age of five. So far, we have reached 426 million people with handwashing behavior-change programmes in developing countries. We do that because we want to help enhance people's wellbeing, and at the same time the brand is growing very well. 

"But it also works in developed markets. Our compressed deodorant technology is a good example. Scientists at our R&D facility in Leeds, northern England, reengineered the spray system of our aerosols to reduce the flow rate. Using 50 percent less propellant gas and 25 percent less aluminum in the packaging, we have reduced the carbon footprint per can by about 25 percent. This also means that more cans can be transported at a time, resulting in a 35 percent reduction in the number of lorries on the road. We felt so strongly about it that we did not patent the technology to encourage wider industry use". 

How does the need for innovation fit into the broad framework of the Sustainable Living Plan?

"It starts as a broad purpose that aligns everybody in whichever  direction you want to take," Polman replied. "We have translated the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan into what we call a Compass, so everybody has the same true North. And in that Compass we look at winning with innovation, we look at winning in the marketplace, winning with people, and winning with continuous improvement, which we call efficiencies. But we want innovation running through all of these areas. 

"The packaging is up to 30% lighter and allows us to get 40% more product on a pallet, which means we could reduce the number of trucks on the road by 800 per year".

We provide the tools and we explain to  people what sort of objectives there are. Anything we do now in our innovation programme has to go through what we call the sustainability phenomenon. It has to be in line with the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

"It is really the energy that comes from people in terms of having a meaning, having a purpose, having a contribution to life, that drives innovation. We spend one billion euros on R&D, we have 7,500 R&D professionals and 20,000 patents. But the global population is 7.6 billion. So, you need to have an open innovation system where you work together with everyone else to expand your consumer base and achieve wider success. For example, our top 15 suppliers are involved in about 50 percent of our innovations. 

"We have Unilever Ventures, our venture capital and private equity arm which invests in young and innovative companies to help accelerate their growth. Then there is our Unilever Foundry, where we help start-ups and social entrepreneurs scale up their ideas for greater positive impact. Unilever Foundry also enables our brands to collaborate and experiment with evolving technologies. And then our Mergers and Acquisitions strategy is geared to finding innovative brands like air purification company Blueair, or Seventh Generation, a cleaning products company in the US that thinks seven generations ahead. 

"Our M&A activity is for us an incubator for innovations as well. We are trying to find smaller companies and then make them bigger by leveraging our size and scale. But the main driver is the passion of our people. It cannot come from anywhere else. It is our people who go out there and want to make this a better world. They stay connected, they see what is needed. They see the challenges that consumers struggle with. It boils down to the people and their purpose.

Unilever takes tougher stance on supply-chain emissions

Company calls for “absolute” reductions across ingredients, agriculture and ice-cream refrigerators.

By Heather Clancy

March 18, 2024

Hellman's mayo

The Hellmann's mayonnaise brand is part of Unilever's nutrition business and generates more than $1 billion in sales annually. Source: Unilever

Unilever’s new climate transition plan has a sharper focus on cutting emissions from suppliers in its drive to achieve net-zero status by 2039.

The updated strategy showcases Unilever CEO Hein Schumacher’s decision to downplay aspirational commitments and play up operational specifics, such as replacing ingredients and chemicals with a higher environmental impact.

"They’ve illustrated a clear path, in simple terms, for how they intend to achieve consequential progress," said Ken Pucker, professor of practice with the Tufts Fletcher School. He described the level of transparency as "refreshing."

The most significant shift is the London-based company’s call for an absolute cut of 42 percent in the energy and emissions from ingredients, packaging, transportation and distribution, sold products — even the refrigerators it leases to keep ice cream frozen — by 2030. Separately, it is pledging a 30.3 percent reduction in forest, land and agriculture emissions, also in the same timeframe. ( Note: Shortly after this story was first published, Unilever announced its intention to spin out its ice cream business, which includes the Ben & Jerry's brand. That move is likely to change its focus on the refrigeration focus that is prominent in the plan. )

This is the first time the company behind Dove, Hellmann’s, Knorr and other well-known brands has called for absolute cuts in Scope 3, which covers what’s emitted by suppliers and customers in the production and use of a company’s products. Approximately 98 percent of the company’s emissions come from this category. 

Unilever previously focused on reducing the "emissions intensity" of its products, and it has cut that rate by 21 percent since 2010. "The development of these plans has been informed by significant improvements in the measurement of our GHG emissions, allowing us to build more granular action plans," Unilever said . Those measurements were informed by the latest assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the new Greenhouse Gas Protocol guidance on land sector use, the company said. 

Unilever’s new emissions math

The new commitments use a revised 2021 baseline: 56 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Unilever’s total emissions are 121 million metric tons but that includes 65 million metric tons of "indirect consumer use." For example, the hot water used to wash your hands with Dove soap. Unilever opted not to include indirect consumer emissions, as those aren’t required by the Science Based Targets initiative, a body that validates corporate action against the Paris Agreement goals.

The company is pledging a 100 percent absolute reduction by 2030 in the emissions it can most control — Scope 1 (its own operations) and Scope 2 (for purchased fuel and energy.) That goal is set against a 2015 baseline, and it has already achieved a 74 percent cut. It will invest $163 million over the next three years in equipment electrification, replacing natural gas with biofuels, and introducing solar thermal technology for industrial applications.

Anything it hasn’t been able to reduce outright by 2039 will be balanced with carbon removal purchases, according to the blueprint.

Unilever 2030 plan

Detailed agenda for tackling Scope 3

Here’s a breakdown of where Unilever thinks those Scope 3 cuts will come from. These measures will account for two-thirds of what's needed to make the 2030 goal, the company said.

  • 19 percent — energy efficiencies from 3 million-plus ice cream freezers, a measure that will include raising the base temperatures and using renewable energy. ( Note: As Unilever's plans for divesting the ice cream division become clearer, we'll report on the evolution of this goal. )
  • 14 percent — partnerships with 300 of its most emissions-intensive suppliers, to be in place by the end of 2024; detailed carbon footprints are already being gathered from about 100 of them.
  • 13 percent — product reformulations that increase the use of plant-based ingredients and decrease dependence on commodities such as palm oil; the company's joint venture with Genomatica , supported by the $1.09 billion in the Unilever Climate & Nature Fund is one example of the innovation necessary
  • 7 percent — developing alternatives for aerosol propellants in the U.S. and Canada.
  • 6 percent — changes in production processes for two chemicals used in cleansers and laundry detergent, soda ash and linear alkylbenzene sulphonate.
  • 4 percent — moving 1.6 million acres of the company’s land footprint to regenerative agriculture by 2027.
  • 3 percent — reducing packaging and transitioning to recycled and renewable sources instead of virgin plastic.
  • 2 percent — redesigns to Unilever’s logistics network to improve freight efficiency; and the purchase of electric and alternative vehicles.

Shareholders consulted, will vote in May

Unilever’s biggest shareholders were consulted during the development of the plan, Schumacher said.

"We were pleased that the key elements of the plan — the new higher ambition near-term Scope 3 GHG reduction targets, the continued focus on absolute emissions reductions rather than carbon offsetting, and the shift to focus on the specific Scope 3 emissions which we believe we can influence — were widely welcomed," he said.

Shareholders will have an opportunity to vote on the plan at the company’s next annual meeting, typically held in May. If the resolution receives less than 80 percent support, "we would comply with the U.K. Corporate Governance Code and consult shareholders as to why this was the case," according to a spokesperson.

Unilever, among 239 companies to receive a "commitment removed" status change from SBTi in early March, has submitted its updated plan for approval. "We expect to receive approval from the SBTi for these targets shortly," the company said through a spokesperson.

Editor's note: This article was updated March 21, 2024, to reflect the company's decision to divest its ice cream business.

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More on this topic

  • Corporate Strategy
  • Supply Chain
  • Scope 3 Emissions

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Heather Clancy

Heather Clancy

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Sustainability of supply chain unilever case study

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The paper does not provide specific information about Unilever's corporate sustainability efforts.

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Unilever Global Change location

Palm Oil Story

Our palm oil supply chain.

We are committed to transparency to ensure stakeholders are able to monitor our progress and hold us accountable. We believe transparency and traceability are fundamental in supply chain transformation, which is why we publish lists of our suppliers. This means we publish a list of palm oil mills in our supply chain. It also includes our tier-1 suppliers (PDF 189.08 KB) , the palm oil companies we have a direct commercial relationship with, and their refineries and facilities. (PDF 251.05 KB) .

A palm oil plantation with lines of evenly spaced trees.

Farmers & plantations

The critical first mile, smallholder-centric sustainability.

To drive real change in the industry, our strategy aims to go beyond relying on the existing limited certified supply base (where, in some cases, we are not always able to gain full traceability), and move to purchase volumes that we can be sure are deforestation-free. We are focused on engaging a section of the industry that has been largely left out of the sustainable supply chain - independent mills and their smallholder supply base.

Three smallholders from Kotawaringin Barat next to palm fruit in a plantation.

No credible plan for the transformation of the industry can ignore the pivotal role of independent smallholders who are generally unsupported and have no permanent ties to a larger plantation or mill. They often have low productivity and low-quality trees, and cannot afford technical advice to improve the situation, which puts more pressure on forests. Any credible sustainability plan for palm oil must take into account the needs of smallholders. Working with independent mills and smallholders means we can help the industry achieve higher levels of sustainability, traceability and transparency - and we gain more visibility within our supply chain.

We have deliberately moved closer to sourcing from independent smallholders in Indonesia and Malaysia, where our sourcing is greatest. Since 2016, we have supported more than 21,000 independent smallholders through various training programmes to implement good agriculture practices to increase their productivity sustainably, helping them raise their incomes while also building a source of high-quality sustainable palm oil for us. We also provide training in how to boost incomes, and in other areas of running a business, such as management and accountancy skills.

We offer support through certification, landscape initiatives and our new smallholder hubs, providing training to bring smallholders to certification and beyond. We aim to support another 40,000 smallholders with training through three new hubs in Aceh, North Sumatra, and Riau province of Indonesia; in 2023, we began work with the first groups.

A group of smallholders participate in training.

Engaging with smallholders is a process. To learn more about them, we work with trusted partners - such as Fortasbi, IDH, Koltiva, Kompasia, Konservasi Indonesia, Meridia, SNV, Widya Erti Indonesia, and the World Resources Institute - to meet the communities living in the supply shed of our supplier mills. With the farmers' consent, our partners create polygon maps of the smallholdings and find out about the quality of the trees and soil, the challenges the farmers face, and their family situation. This information helps us understand how best to support them and also helps unlock the value of land for smallholders. So far, we have mapped 28,000 independent smallholders.

We help farmers with the various legal documents needed to obtain certification. These documents can also help farmers access credit or grants to replace their oil palms. Replanting is expensive, but it can increase production significantly and boost the supply of sustainably produced palm oil in the market. We have supported more than 8,200 independent smallholders to obtain certification from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), and continue to be one of the largest buyers of Independent Smallholder (ISH) RSPO credits, with more than 100,000 ISH credits purchased in 2023, providing valuable additional income for these farmers.

Supporting large-scale concessions and plantations

The majority of our palm oil sourcing comes from large-scale concessions and plantations, which were established before our no-deforestation requirements. We embed the principles of our People & Nature Policy into supplier contracts and collaborate with large and medium-sized plantations to help them put in place the sustainability policies and practices they need to comply.

For example, since 2018, we have worked with PT Perkebunan Nusantara (PTPN), the Indonesian government-owned plantation company and a significant supplier of palm oil to Unilever. We provide resources, funding and technical expertise to help PTPN obtain RSPO certification for its plantations and mills across Sumatra. And we support smallholders in its supply chain to meet our sustainability commitments.

Traceability: innovations for sustainability

Traders are an integral part of the palm oil supply chain. They are intermediaries who buy fresh fruit bunches from independent smallholders and sell them on, either to other traders or to mills. Farmers leave their fruit at collection points, often informal and some distance from their land, where it is picked up by traders, who often mix it with the fruit of other farmers. It is then difficult to know whether the fruit was produced sustainably.

Fresh oil palm fruit bunches piled at the roadside and awaiting transportation

Exploring cutting-edge technology with Premise and PemPem

We have explored cutting-edge technology to create traceability and understanding of this link in the supply chain. We successfully trialled a crowdsourcing app designed by our partner Premise , which allows anyone with access to a smartphone and the Premise app, including mill workers and suppliers, to upload photos and information about collection points. Knowing where the collection points are helps us to understand the link between independent mills and smallholder locations where the palm oil we use is grown, and it helps us to take action.

The Premise dashboard with uploaded photos of collection points.

We are also delighted to have signed a contract with innovator PemPem in 2023 . The company designed an app and ecosystem to digitise transactions of fresh fruit bunches produced by independent smallholders and capture material flow in the first mile. This model helps create a more traceable supply chain for Unilever and supports smallholders to obtain fairer prices and greater access to the palm market.

PemPem supports Unilever to gain greater traceability in the palm oil supply chain. It acts as a market-maker for onboarded smallholders with bids for fresh fruit bunches from mills. It then carries out the transaction and hires the traders to deliver the fruit to the mill. PemPem has begun onboarding the first batch of ten mills and 10,000 smallholder farmers in Riau and North Sumatra for Unilever, and traded volumes are expected to grow rapidly over 2024.

Sustainability initiatives

As buyers of fresh fruit bunches, the independent and integrated mills in our supply chain play a key role in ensuring palm oil is sustainably produced. We have supported more than 50 mills with training to help them understand and implement responsible sourcing and production practices.

Fresh oil palm fruit bunches at a mill, waiting to be processed

We help mills to implement best management practices, including from the RSPO for managing peat, and from the High Carbon Stock Approach toolkit, an initiative to identify and protect forests.

When we onboard a mill into our supply chain, we work together to establish a sustainability roadmap, which we then embed into their contract. We aim to build their capacity to meet the sustainability standards of our People & Nature Policy, to adopt technology and partner in our smallholder programmes, to report on their deforestation-free supply chain, and perhaps to obtain certification.

A woman wearing a hard hat pushes a wheelbarrow in the forest

We require independent mills to provide supply chain information linking us to where they obtain their fresh fruit bunches. We ask these mills to participate in various technology partnerships that we believe will unlock more visibility in the first mile of the supply chain. This accelerates the processes that lead us to sustainable palm oil: mapping the smallholders, and providing training in good agricultural practices and in creating additional livelihoods, which helps them to increase their incomes, thereby reducing pressure on forests.

Engaging with refineries

We engage at all levels of the supply chain. Our contracts with refineries and facilities, our direct suppliers, require that they abide by our People & Nature Policy, or have their own equivalent sustainability policy in place, and provide us with a list of their supplier mills.

Each refinery or facility that directly supplies Unilever's factories needs to comply with our Responsible Partner Policy (PDF 4.45 MB) , which sets out our requirements on ethical business, human rights and the environment. The audit gives us an overview of our partners and helps us support any that need help in meeting our sustainability requirements.

Unilever Oleochemical Indonesia

Positive impact.

We invested $360 million in building our own processing plant, Unilever Oleochemical Indonesia (UOI), in Sei Mangkei in North Sumatra province, which we opened in 2015. It enables us to buy directly from mills, rather than through intermediaries. This gives us greater oversight of our supply chain and ensures we can have a positive impact on people and nature in the areas we source from.

A view of Unilever Oleochemical Indonesia processing plant.

The mills buy from independent smallholders, and we have mapped 28,000 farmers in the UOI landscape. The mills also participate in our smallholder sustainability programmes, which include equipping farmers with the skills to negotiate directly with them. Increasing farmers' incomes can lessen their need to expand their farms, and they become allies in protecting and regenerating nature.

Unilever factories

Traceability to the end product.

One solution helping us to achieve a more transparent and traceable supply chain is SAP Green Token. It allows us to build traceability of our raw materials, prove our claims more consistently, and create deforestation-free scores for our factories. It uses blockchain technology to create auditable material logs (containing unique characteristics such as sustainability attributes) as they pass through each stage of the supply chain.

A production line in a factory

A virtual token is created for each unit of material. These tokens pass through SAP software as the material is bought and sold along the supply chain. Manually tracking materials can be complicated, as there are often up to ten intermediaries between the mill and the consumer. SAP Green Token can be bought as an add-on to the purchasing systems that many companies already use.

We successfully conducted our first pilot of SAP Green Token in 2022 , and a second pilot at UOI, working with four of our 12 independent mills to understand the support needed to implement the new system. These pilots have prepared us to potentially scale up in 2024.

Monitoring deforestation

Ndpe dashboard.

Our No Deforestation, No Peat Conversion, No Exploitation (NDPE) dashboard is a one-stop interactive platform through which we can monitor more than 20 million hectares of oil palm concessions, over 2,000 mills in our universal mill list, and the 28,000 smallholders we have mapped so far. It also includes supply chain linkage information to understand sourcing risk and compliance with the deforestation-free policy.

The NDPE dashboard showing a snapshot of Unilever’s supply chain monitoring

The sustainability compliance information of our suppliers is included, while Google Earth satellite images are embedded within the dashboard and continually updated, and deforestation alerts and grievances are also channelled into it. We obtained the concessions in our dashboard directly from our suppliers and via our partnership with EarthQualizer, who have one of the largest and most accurate data sets of palm oil concessions in the industry. This allows us to detect issues quickly and prioritise areas in which to support engagement in sustainable production and protection.

We are working on the complete digital forest footprint for our global palm oil supply chain, the next stage in our commitment to transparency. We are adding further data layers to the dashboard, and plan to integrate our other four in-scope commodities into it.

We are proud of our progress, but we understand that we still have work to do. We are excited to continue this journey towards making sustainability commonplace in the palm oil supply chain.

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Logistics & Inventory Controller

unilever case study supply chain


With 3.4 billion people in over 190 countries using our products every day, Unilever is a business that makes a real impact on the world. Work on brands that are loved and improve the lives of our consumers and the communities around us. We are driven by our purpose: to make sustainable living commonplace, and it is our belief that doing business the right way drives superior performance. At the heart of what we do is our people – we believe that when our people work with purpose, we will create a better business and a better world. 

At Unilever, your career will be a unique journey, grounded in our inclusive, collaborative, and flexible working environment. We don’t believe in the ‘one size fits all’ approach and instead we will equip you with the tools you need to shape your own future.

Inventory and Logistics Controller


Unilever is the place where you can bring your purpose to life with the work that you do – creating a better business and a better world. If you are passionate about optimizing warehousing, inbound and outbound secondary transportation, and co-packing operations to ensure the efficient and accurate handling and delivery of customer orders, achieving high CCFOT at optimal costs, and adhering to Unilever's quality, environmental safety, and health standards, then this role is perfect for you!


Manage the day to day deliver operations to achieve high levels of Customer Service at optimal costs.

  • Ensure distribution of products on time and in full within the required conditions. 
  • Drive CCFOT (Customer Case Fill On Time); ICCFOT (Inter Company Case Fill on Time); Working Capital (Stock) reduction and CEPs (Cost Effectiveness Programs) 
  • Build and Sustain collaborative/ productive relationship with Unilever Customers; 3PLs to drive service levels, costs, efficiencies, process simplification and loss reduction from CCFOT analysis.
  • Determine and optimise the warehouse and transport capacity with 3PL’s.
  • Ensure all operations in Warehouse and Distribution are within the agreed SHEQ and food safety guidelines; lead the TPM activities in the warehouse.
  • Conduct periodic stock count and reconcile physical, 3PL and UL system stocks to ensure stock accuracy.
  • Monitor and organize FIFO applications in the warehouse operations.
  • Organize collection of pallets from customers and ensure pallet supply is as per production plan.
  • Assign reason codes for stock returns and rejections at the time of receiving goods returns.
  • Coordinate shipment of finished goods from the factories to the warehouse.
  • Ensure that site contingency plan is live and maintained.
  • Manage all government / local relations in regard to the site operations
  • Support the Regional Logistics Director for the preparation/negotiations of MCO Deliver contracts.
  • Manage the effective processing of supplier invoices and payments to 3PLs customer claims.
  • Responsible for custom clearance in operations where it is not managed by 3PL. 
  • Ensure appropriate stock provisions are made in books for SLOB’s. Ensure timely initiation of disposals to minimize losses.
  • Responsible for ensuring transportation and warehousing cost budgets are within the set limits.
  • Ensure Distribution Requirement Planning is in place with regards to Up- Country DCs way of working
  • Implement HR procedures and policies. 


Experiences & Qualifications

  • University degree, Supply chain (APICS etc) qualification is an added.
  • 3-5 Years in Supply Chain operations 
  • Experience in managing 3PLs.
  • Planning experience
  • Exposure to Order to Cash, procure to pay cycle.
  • Budgeting & Planning
  • Master of Business Administration; Logistics Degree
  • Special studies in Supply Chain related subjects.
  • FMCG experience

Key Interfaces:

•             Customer Service / Demand Planning

•             Sourcing Units and Export / Import

•             Accounting / Finance

•             Supply Management

•             Quality Assurance

•             Regional CSE Teams

•             Regional and local 3PL 

  • Business Acumen: Ability to analyze data, and supplier performance metrics, to make informed decisions and optimize procurement processes.
  • Supply Chain Management, inventory management and material requirements planning: Understanding of supply chain principles and practices, including inventory management, procurement strategies, and logistics coordination.
  • Self-Mastery: Strong verbal and written communication skills to collaborate with cross-functional teams, develop proactive engagement with Logistics partners and provide clear instructions and updates regarding material requirements. Ability to prioritize effectively, meet deadlines, and adapt to changing priorities in a fast-paced manufacturing environment.
  • Detail oriented: Thoroughness and accuracy in Supplier management.
  • You are energized by delivering fantastic results. You are an example to others – both your results and your resilience. You are constantly on the lookout for better ways to do things, engaging and collaborating with others along the way.
  • As an individual you are the one responsible for your own wellbeing and delivering high standards of work. You must also focus on the Consumer and what they need. You are humble and have your head up, looking around to interpret evidence and data smartly, spot issues and opportunities to make things better.
  • Critical SOL (Standards of Leadership) Behaviors
  • TALENT CATALYST :  Inspire people to grow with support and honesty.
  • PERSONAL MASTERY: Sets high standards for themselves. Actively builds own wellbeing and resilience.
  • AGILITY : Explores the world around them, continually learning and developing their skills. Comfortable working in conditions of ambiguity and learning through change.
  • CONSUMER & CUSTOMER LOVE : Whatever their role, always seek to delight our consumers, and partners, our customers better than anyone else.
  • PASSION FOR HIGH PERFORMANCE: Takes personal responsibility and accountability for execution and results. Has an owner’s mindset, using data and insight to make decisions.
  • PURPOSEFUL IMPACT : Care deeply about delivering positive impact for the business, people and planet.

Unilever embraces diversity and encourages applicants from all walks of life! This means giving full and fair consideration to all applicants and continuing development of all employees regardless of age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership, and pregnancy and maternity. 

Unilever is an organisation committed to equity, inclusion and diversity to drive our business results and create a better future, every day, for our diverse employees, global consumers, partners, and communities. We believe a diverse workforce allows us to match our growth ambitions and drive inclusion across the business. At Unilever we are interested in every individual bring ing their ‘Whole Self’ to work and this includes you! Thus if you require any support or access requirements, we encourage you to advise us at the time of your application so that we can support you through your recruitment journey.

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