According to the 2014 GlobeScan/SustainAbility Survey, three major brands are leading the charge toward sustainability. Unilever, Nestle and Coca Cola have long been in the forefront of food and packaging development and marketing; now, they’re scoring top ratings for sustainable practices. And with the increasingly influential Millennial demographic looking to purchase from brands on sound, ecological footing, top ranking may just be the boost these big brands need to help them stay top of mind in a market flooded by smaller, artisan and fair-trade competitors.
Unilever’s Full Circle of Sustainability
“Making progress, driving change” is the sustainability motto at Unilever. As a global brand with its ties to personal hygiene products, foods and beverages, Unilever is striving to involve sustainability throughout every aspect of its product line— that means more than just looking at ways to provide sustainable food choices for customers. The company’s inclusive plan takes a more holistic approach, incorporating nine areas for improving sustainability:
- Health and hygiene
- Improving nutrition
- Greenhouse gases
- Water use
- Waste and packaging
- Sustainable sourcing
- Fairness in the workplace
- Opportunities for women
- Inclusive business
With efforts underway that take aim at a variety of targets— from improving employees’ livelihoods to eliminating activities that are harmful to the environment— it is little wonder that Unilever secured the top spot as the corporate sustainability leader.
Nestle’s Sweet Changes
In a recent press release, Nestle noted that the company would be removing artificial flavors and colors from their candy line. Nestle USA Confections and Snacks president Doreen Ida released this statement: “We know that candy consumers are interested in broader food trends around fewer artificial ingredients. As we thought about what this means for our candy brands, our first step has been to remove artificial flavors and colors without affecting taste or increasing the price. We’re excited to be the first major U.S. candy manufacturer to make this commitment.”
Coca Cola’s Global Sustainability
For beverage giant Coca Cola, the path to sustainability is based on “low-carbon, zero waste.” This mantra, which directs the company’s global initiative, involves reducing the carbon footprint of all manufacturing and distribution operations associated with Coca Cola products. And, in the past three years, Coca Cola has managed to decrease their core business operation carbon footprint by 23 percent overall. Through the increased use of PET, plastic Coca Cola products have become easier to recycle. Despite current successes, corporate execs do note that, in regards to the health effects of Coca Cola brand beverages, there is much more they can do to improve the product line.
It will be interesting to see how this relates to future changes in terms of sustainability for Coca Cola.
Here’s What It All Means To You
The future isn’t looking rosy for brands that have no measurable sustainability efforts and no actionable plans for future implementation. It’s not just customers who interested in supporting sustainable brands. In the future you can also expect investors to through their support behind sustainable operations as the matter rises to international prominence.
Finding ways to stay on task with sustainability, while holding true to a bottom line and brand image, can be quite the juggling act. However, these three industry giants are proving that it is possible to provide sustainable food products which serve to bolster their product image. Through alterations in production, manufacturing and distribution, other brands can follow in Unilever, Nestle and Coca Cola’s footsteps.