Sustainability its example and its deceit

Sustainability and Unilever

Unilever has published its Sustainable living progress report. It has made good progress. Most of the progress really impresses me, like the 24% of agricultural raw materials and 64% of palm oil that are now sustainably sourced.

The fact that 100% of energy is from renewable sources is less impressive as at least some of it is from Norwegian and Swedish hydro sources. We all know that this is nothing but “green washing”. Norway has sold so many of its green certificates (proving that the power was generated by hydro) that one could say that it has, in fact, the dirtiest energy mix of Europe.

But most important to me is the rationale behind the plan. It is a rationale that should inspire all CEO’s to follow Unilever’s lead. Unilever states that it is pursuing its sustainability goals because:
1. consumers want it
2. retailers want it
3. it fuels innovation
4. it helps develop new markets
5. it saves money.
6. it inspires our people
Who would not want his/her company to feel that its strategy achieves all these goals?

It strikes me that all the reasons listed have two sides to them – two sides that can be explained through Unilever’s Dutch heritage. Like any Dutchman, Unilever is both a missionary and a salesman at the same time. Innovation, inspiring employees, developing markets: it is all pursued with missionary zeal in the knowledge that the salesman knows that the market wants it and revenue can be increased.

Sustainability and partnerships

It is also Interesting that Unilever works in partnerships to realise its sustainability goals. CSR business practices require close co-operation with others. Companies cannot do it alone as CSR requires a much more holistic approach to the business. No company can control all the aspects of a-cradle-to-cradle approach effectively and efficiently. Here too Unilever leads the way.

Eneco’s sustainability and deceit

I drove past an Eneco commercial outside Schiphol Airport today. Eneco sells Dutch Wind power and advertises this graphically by a display in which a wind turbine and a washing machine both turn, implying a direct link between the turbine and the energy consumed by the washing machine. We all know this is not true. Today it was great to see that the wind turbine in the display was not turning even though the washing machine was on “full-cycle”. This is the reality: when there is insufficient wind in The Netehrlands, Eneco’s customers still receive power. This power comes from the coal power stations of E.on, Essent, Electrabel and Nuon. It always hurts me to hear and see Eneco claiming it is the greenest producer of power in The Netherlands. It might be true, but Eneco produces such a tiny fraction of Dutch power that this claim does not mean much. Without the coal (and gas) powered generators of its competitors, neither Eneco (nor Greenchoice for that matter) would exist.

Felix Gruijters

1 Response to “Sustainability its example and its deceit”


  1. 1 lawrencegruijters May 5, 2012 at 13:52

    Reblogged this on The Extended Society and commented:
    What will the price of sustainability be? What advantage will it give? A question people and businesses will need to think about.


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