Multinationals can exert influence on sustainable supply chain

Among the more insightful remarks made at the event were those voiced by Dennis Averill, Corporate Manager EHS, Unilever

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Eyefortransport’s 4th Sustainable Supply Chain Summit in San Francisco examined some of the more challenging aspects of “corporate responsibility” and outsourcing this week.

Among the more insightful remarks made at the event were those voiced by Dennis Averill, Corporate Manager EHS, Unilever.

“As a company, we can’t condone the clear-cutting of forests in Southeast Asia when it’s done for the harvesting of palm oil,” he said. “And because we are such a huge multinational, we can use our leverage to keep farmers from doing that.”

Speaking on a panel, “How to Make Your Supply Chain a Positive Influence,” Averill noted that Unilever is a member of the United Nations’ Global Compact and is committed to living out the Compact’s ten principles on human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption.

“Our goal is to source palm oil from companies participating in ‘GreenPalm’ program,” he said. “These are supply chain partners that have been vetted and certified.”

The company also sources tea for Lipton from certified “Rainforest Alliance” farms, although it still faces a challenge when it comes to reaching its global benchmark.

As for the cold-chain, Averill made the startling declaration that “out-of-the-box thinking” was being used to eventually produce ice cream that requires less refrigeration.

The company—which makes Ben & Jerry’s ice cream ingredients—sources its eggs from “cage-free” chickens.

Mark Comolli, Director of Markets, Rainforest Alliance, observed that Unilever is among the leaders in sustainable practices.

“But we can do more to influence agricultural legacies,” he said. “For example, getting farmers in the Amazon to give up cattle raising in favor of sustainable crops. It’s becoming clear to them now that they can make more money and raise their standard of living by making that change.”

About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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