Unilever Philippines has embarked on enhancing farmers’ quality of life by embedding sustainability in its value chain and introducing sustainable sourcing. Sustainable sourcing means growing crops in ways that would preserve the soil, minimize water and fertilizer use, protect biodiversity and boost farmers’ livelihoods.
“We recognize that substantial improvements in the agricultural sector could only be realized when the private sector sustainably engages with farmers. Unilever Philippines has taken on a proactive role to work with various stakeholders in promoting sustainable agriculture,” said Unilever Philippines Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Benjie Yap. “We convene various players across the value chain, from government agencies, farmer groups, non-government organizations, and other representatives from related industries to find viable ways to uplift the agriculture sector.”
Since 2015, Unilever Philippines has served as one of the private sector representatives and co-chair of the Grow Asia – Philippine Partnership for Sustainable Agriculture (PPSA), collaborating closely with the Department of Agriculture to address key agriculture issues. PPSA is a multi-stakeholder coalition and platform that engages smallholder farmers as market players, enhancing their competitive advantage. PPSA has four working groups for coffee, coconut, corn and fisheries, with Unilever at the helm of the Coconut Working Group.
“We aim to provide support to smallholder farmers through sharing of knowledge on technology and crop protection, training on farm management, access to credit and financing, and preparation for contingencies, such as price movements, disasters and disease,” said Yap. “The Philippines is the second largest producer of coconut in the world, and we want to be able to facilitate sustainable production of coconut and turn it into a significant contributor to the country’s economy.”
Unilever’s work in sustainable agriculture goes beyond coconuts. Across Southeast Asia, the company has supported various crop industries and innovative solutions for agriculture, including agri-finance and mobile technology in Myanmar, soybean in Indonesia, and tea in Vietnam.
In the Philippines, Unilever is also deliberate in embedding sustainable agriculture practices across its relevant brands, and connecting agriculture with other equally pressing issues.
“Our involvement in the PPSA enables us to pursue shared goals that benefit farmers, communities, and society at large,” said Yap. “There is a pressing need for a sustainable economic model, one that takes a long-term and comprehensive approach in addressing issues. In Unilever, you can see this through our brands like Knorr, where promoting sustainable sourcing and curbing hungergo hand-in-hand.”
Yap further pointed out the large potential of bolstering the Philippines’ agriculture sector through sustainable business models.
“To date, we have touched the lives of 1,500 Filipino smallholder farmers, and we believe that there is room to make an even greater impact for a larger number of farmers and households. Uplifting the lives of farmers is in line with our growth trajectory—one that is founded on improving the lives of Filipinos everywhere,” said Yap.