Unilever is opening up its climate action plan to shareholders as Amazon's Climate Pledge battles criticism

Unilever is opening up its climate action plan to shareholders as Amazon's Climate Pledge battles criticism
Unilever is going to put its climate action plan to a vote before May next yearUnilever
  • Unilever is opening up its plan for tackling climate change to a shareholder vote in May next year, becoming the first global company to do so.
  • However, the vote won’t be open to shareholders of Hindustan Unilever (HUL) in India.
  • The company announced its plans for a shareholder vote shortly after joining the Amazon-led Climate Pledge, which has been criticised for being a branding endeavour rather than delivering actual change.
Big corporations all over the world have been pledging to reduce their role in the impact of climate change, and this includes the global consumer goods giant Unilever.

The London-based multinational has announced that it will be opening up its ‘climate transition action plan’ to the shareholders to vote next year and seek a non-binding advisory vote.“It is the first time a global company has voluntarily committed to put its climate transition plan before a shareholder vote,” said the company.

The plan will outline the overall goals of the organisation to mitigate climate change, and the specific measures it will be putting in place to achieve those goals. This includes an ambitious target to turn net-zero emissions by 2039.

However, the vote won’t be open to shareholders of Hindustan Unilever (HUL) in India. “The proposal to seek shareholders’ approval is by Unilever. HUL is a separate listed company, and therefore, HUL shareholders will not be participating in the approval process,” HUL told Business Insider.

Unilever’s climate transition targets:

  1. Zero emissions from its own operations by 2030
  2. A 50% reduction in the average footprint of its products by 2030
  3. Net-zero emissions from sourcing to point of sale by 2039
The climate transition action plan will be shared with shareholders during the first quarter of the next fiscal year, and the vote is likely to take place during the Annual General Meeting on 5 May 2021.

The plan will be revised and put up for a vote every three years after that. Unilever will share its first annual progress report of the ‘climate transition action plan’ in 2022.

According to the company, the endeavour is to be more transparent about its goals and how it plans to achieve them.

Just branding or actual change?
The move to share its plans with the shareholders comes after Unilever joined Amazon’s Climate Pledge to be net-zero carbon by 2040 along with Microsoft, Rubicon, and ten other companies last week.

But, many aren’t convinced. Critics point out that the cooperative environmental agreement lacks transparency around the exact measures that will lead to these behemoths beating the Paris Agreement’s goal of 2050 by a decade.

Aseem Prakash from the University of Washington told The Washington Post that the climate pledge is nothing more than a ‘branding exercise’. “They’ve wrapped themselves in the cloak of environmental respectability,” he said.

Another critique was highlighted in a report by Oceana. It points out the irony between Amazon’s Climate Pledge and the fact that the e-commerce giant is still using plastic packaging, polluting waterways and oceans across the world.

Earlier in December, 400 international law makers from 34 different countries also wrote an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos accusing Amazon of underpaying workers, paying taxes that are too low — and being a contributor to climate change.

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