Australian demand for sustainable products continues to rise

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 2nd April 2009

Unilever’s Lipton brand is pledging to become more ethical as the consumer giant releases new research into Australian attitudes towards sustainability.

A twelve-month study, undertaken by AMR Interactive and Newspoll on behalf of Unilever, discovered that 51 per cent of Australians were more concerned about sustainability this year compared to last, with 62 per cent believing it to be one of the most critical issues confronting the country today.

The research, entitled Sustainable Australia?, has been released to coincide with the company’s launch of Rainforest Alliance certified Lipton tea. By June, a minimum of 50% of the tea in Lipton Quality Black tea will come from Rainforest Alliance Certified estates, with the company setting the goal of all tea being source from Rainforest Alliance Certified estates by 2015.

Unilever Australasia chairman, Sebastian Lazell, said the move represented the latest step in a global movement toward more sustainable tea production.

“We have a longstanding commitment to sustainability and we believe this is the right decision for the long-term viability of both our tea business and the industry as a whole,” he advised. “Furthermore, new research presented in the Sustainable Australia? report tells us that four out of five Australians want businesses to be investing more in sustainable practices compared to last year, so we’re pleased to be able make this announcement in Australia.”

“This program will ultimately benefit up to two million people in our global supply chain,” Mr Lazell said.

The report also found three quarters of Australians believe there is a real need for sustainable products in the market, but 68 per cent still only associate sustainability with the environment and just 27 per cent make the link between sustainability and worker welfare.

A number of companies are now beginning to shift toward more sustainable sources, with McDonald’s, Kraft and Gloria Jean’s among those to already have introduced Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee, while Cadbury recently announced a commitment to Fairtrade* chocolate.

“A key factor in choosing to work with Rainforest Alliance is that they have already demonstrated in coffee and bananas their ability to help change a whole industry,” Mr Lazell noted.

Realising that cost was often the major barrier to people choosing ‘ethical’ products, the company has announced that the price of Lipton tea will not increase as a result of the move.

* Fairtrade, like the Rainforest Alliance, encourages the use of sustainable practices. However, they also guarantee a minimum price per kilo to growers amid a pledge toward better working conditions that ensure producers are not discriminated against by an international trading system that has often taken advantage of producers in developing countries.