Early July, Cargill supplied the first sustainably produced rapeseed oil to Unilever. The shipment covers about 5% of Unilever’s annual demand for rapeseed oil. Within 3 years, Cargill will be able to supply to Unilever its entire European demand for sustainably produced rapeseed oil. For Unilever, the oil is a feedstock for products like margarines and mayonnaise.
The background of this shipment is Unilever’s policy to use only sustainable agricultural raw materials by 2020: from 10% in 2010, to 20% in 2012 and 50% in 2015, to 100%. Unilever states to have met its self-imposed targets so far. In sectors where sustainability criteria have been agreed upon, like palm oil (RSPO) and wood (FSC), Unilever complies to these criteria; for other crops (like rapeseed), the company formulated criteria of its own, in which sustainability is judged on 11 parameters: soil health, soil loss by erosion, loss of nutrients, reduction of pesticide, energy and water use, biodiversity, quality and yield of the crop, social and human capital, local economy, and animal welfare. Unilever acknowledges that they cannot ever achieve full sustainability, but does ask their suppliers to commit to continuous improvement, and recognises only those certification schemes that commit to continuous improvement.
Unilever concentrates first on its top ten agricultural raw material groups, which account for around two-thirds of our volumes. These are palm oil; paper and board; soy; sugar; tea; fruit and vegetables; sunflower oil; rapeseed oil; dairy ingredients; and cocoa. The Cargill shipment of sustainable rapeseed oil, on which both parties have worked from 2008 onwards, means that for this product, too, Unilever has embarked on the road towards sustainability.