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P&G vs Unilever Which One is More Sustainable? - Gülce Özdilekcan


While searching for a product to buy, consumers have different criteria to choose the product. These may be quality, packaging, reviews and suggestions, advertisements, and maybe the most important of them all, the price range. We buy and use many products daily, and we don't necessarily think about how environmentally friendly these products are. Does anyone know exactly how much plastic they have used today? Or do they know how many liters of water they have polluted with cleaning agents? I don't think so.


Regarding this matter, there are products that we cannot live without, which are cleaning and personal hygiene products. Thinking of these products, while even reading the sentence, we can name some sub-brands. These sub-brands are mainly owned by Unilever and Procter& Gamble (P&G) globally. Talking with numbers, as Unilever has stated that 98% of the regular households in the UK own their products and 2 billion people buy Unilever goods every day. Battling with COVID, for now, two years, P&G has increased their sales as well, which can be seen in their financial reports at the end of 2020, and still, according to the unofficial sources, P&G covers 14.96% of the market share, whereas other companies have distinctly lower market shares than them. Even as a consumer myself, there are some brands that I cannot name another dupe than Unilever or P&G. Therefore, we can easily say that these two brands' products are commonly used and well known. They are also competing in some of the markets by their different sub-brands.


Since we are so highly engaged with these brands, I wanted to go deeper into how these companies have engaged with sustainability and being eco-friendly. Thinking of it, we can see that the products that we are commonly using in our houses pose a threat to the environment. Therefore, using sustainable products has huge importance and impacts how we take care of our planet. While researching this issue, I have used the sustainability reports and the financial statements of companies. Starting from the 2000s, large companies must prepare sustainability reports in some countries and Europe and can be publicly reached. I researched these two brands' sustainability reports and compared their efforts to environmental issues.


Unilever: Sustainability Reports

According to Unilever's financial report in 2020, mainly their goal is to contribute to the goal of zero emissions by the year 2050, and they advocate for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. They are aware that they are one of the biggest producers in the market for consumer goods; therefore, they are aware that they have a huge responsibility. Also, they are aware that they should be honest about their numbers on the sustainability of their productions. They support the aim of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), which advocates that the data they provide is true. Also, their investors can better decide on choosing Unilever by showing that they support TCFD. Also, they have paid attention to palm oil usage, and they have decided to decrease the usage because of the negative environmental effects. Unilever has used the "Unilever Sustainable Living Plan" throughout their production process to reduce greenhouse gas, non-degradable wastes, and water consumption. “Unilever Compass” includes zero carbon operations and maintaining non-hazardous waste to landfills. Since 2008, we have reduced CO2 from energy by 75% per ton of production, water abstraction by 49% per ton of production, and waste sent for disposal by 96% per ton of production.


Procter & Gamble: Sustainability Reports

As P&G has stated in their financial statement for the year ended 2021, compared to 10 years ago, they have decreased their greenhouse emissions up to 50%, reached zero manufacturing waste to landfill across all production sites globally, and doubled the use of recycled resin in our plastic packaging. Similar to Unilever, P&G has set their eyes to 2030, where they are seeking neutral carbon operations and using 100% sustainable energy. They have also launched a program called "It's Our Home" to show their consumers how to use the products wisely regarding sustainability. They have also decreased their water consumption by up to 25% per 1 unit, using RSPO certified palm oil, and 73% of their packaging is recyclable. They also have a website to publish the latest news about sustainable products and data. Also, P&G started producing organic products to protect the sources and the sustainable environment. However, they are not available in all countries that P&G is producing.


Comparison

To be fair, both companies have shown a great effort in the last ten years. They have changed the way they perceive production and have leaned onto a more sustainable one. Also, they have paid more attention to environmentally controversial issues such as palm oil. Both have set their eyes on the near future for an eco-friendlier production and tried to encourage the consumers to recycle the packaging by producing recyclable ones. They also have addressed climate-related issues such as greenhouse gases and waste in landfills. There are slight changes in the numerical data they have provided to the consumers and investors. The goals they set ten years ago have succeeded and fully applied, which is good news. Therefore, in the near future, I think that the numbers between Unilever and P&G will match as well. However, it caught my attention that, even though the data they provide is for their products worldwide, they don't pay attention to some parts of the world. For example, the data I have found is mostly related to North American sales (as stated in their financial reports). However, a consumer should be asking the question of what about the rest of the world? As a consumer from Turkey, I have used countless brands from these companies; however, I haven't even heard once about their sustainability goals for Turkey, even though their goals are publicly advertised in North America. Still, there are many consumers all over the world, and I think that environmental threat is not only for a part of the world. Maybe, the production stage is the same for Turkey as well; however, I think that even recycling is questionable in most countries, it is not a habit. Therefore, the solutions and the goals that they have set some question marks about the way they are going to work, even if I believe in them and find them promising.