The Sustainable Agriculture Code was first published in 2010. It is now the basis of Unilever’s operations and self-evaluation program, which contributes to sustainable operations throughout the whole supply chain.
Sustainable Agriculture Code
Date: since 2010 continuously
Solutions of the macro-sustainability challenges
Improving the efficiency of water distribution and usage
What´s the solution?
Unilever’s codex was created in 2010 and is constantly being monitored at an international level, leading to actions where the high expectations require them throughout the company’s value chain. First, the document sets out criteria and recommendations. In areas where many farmers find it difficult to comply with these rules or where their implementation would lead to problems in supply, they work together with the company to solve these problems. Testing the quality of water used for irrigation and submitting the related data is mandatory, as well as the training of personnel involved in the management and organization of irrigation. The Code contains mandatory, strict requirements, key points and guidelines. For example, it is obligatory to have an official paper that permits the use of the required amount of water, the proper disposal of the waste by the company and the staff. It is imperative to check the aspects of irrigation in order to avoid soil and water contamination, and to carry out continuous analyzes of microbiological, chemical and mineral content.
Only 3% of the world’s water is freshwater and still, only 1% can be used, while about one-third of the countries are suffering from water scarcity and this is expected to increase sharply due to rising populations, changing living standards and climate change. Many plants used by Unilever require irrigation, while agricultural facilities still need water, so the water used must come from sustainable sources and be used in a sustainable way later on. This is a vital issue of the company for its long-term operation.
With suppliers and growers, Unilever have jointly implemented over 4,000 water management plans through the sustainable sourcing programme. These plans can result in changes across the farm, from the use of drip irrigation to deliver water straight to plant roots preventing wastage, creating better soil and nutrient management. Unilever support farmers in adopting drip irrigation in water-stressed areas. Through the Knorr Partnership Fund (KPF) the company helped tomato farmers in Greece to cut water use by 28%. In India the program supported around 3,700 families implement ‘low-tech’ drip irrigation systems. These increase yields by 20% and reduce water use by 25%. The recent drip irrigation projects include supporting onion and garlic growers in California.