Unilever Shareholders to Vote on Climate Action In a Blue-Chip First

Climate targets come to Unilever’s annual shareholders meeting.

Household brand giant Unilever announced today that it will open up climate transition plans to a vote by its shareholders. “It’s the first time a major global company has voluntarily committed to put its climate transition plans before a shareholder vote,” the company said in a statement.

The announcement comes after British billionaire Chris Hohn launched the “Say on Climate” campaign. Its aim is to encourage corporations to give more voice to their shareholders on climate issues.

Unilever is the parent company to leading household brands Dove soap and Hellmann’s mayonnaise.

“Unilever believes that the economy-wide shift to net-zero emissions will require a greater and deeper level of engagement between companies and their investors about their climate transition plans,” the company said in a statement.

“[C]limate change is the most pressing issue of our time, ” said Alan Jope, Unilever’s CEO. The multinational corporation says it will look at its climate plans regularly, on a “rolling basis.” Advisory votes will happen every three years and there will be annual progress reporting beginning in 2022.

Unilever Shareholders to Vote on Climate Action In a Blue-Chip First

Increased Transparency

“We welcome this increased transparency and in the plan we present,” Jope said. “We will be clear both about the areas in our direct control where we have a high degree of certainty of our route to net zero, as well as more challenging areas across our value chain where systemic solutions will be required to achieve our targets.”

Shareholders could reject the plan, however. At least, in theory, anyway. The votes are non-binding and experts say are unlikely to reject climate efforts. Procter & Gamble, Unilever’s primary competitor upset shareholders when it failed to offer transparency about its climate efforts. Last October, P&G shareholders were primed for a revolt over climate issues. They were upset over the lack of information about the company’s palm oil sourcing and contributions to deforestation for its bath tissue brands.

The shareholders motion callde on P&G to report “on if and how it can increase the scale, pace and rigour of its efforts to eliminate deforestation and the degradation of intact forests in its supply chains.”

 “We continually work to ensure that we are following responsible practices in our supply chains,” P&G said in response.

Unilever, which is worth more than $120 billion, has already pledged to reduce carbon emissions by half over 2010 numbers. It aims to be net-zero emissions by 2039, and reduce all carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. It will reveal its full climate action plans ahead of the May 5th meeting.

The announcement also comes after leading climate experts urged COP26 leadership to add more women to the event happening next November.

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