It may beunusual for Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman to be an advocate of sustainable business and tackling global concerns such as poverty and climate change (Kraft Heinz in surprise retreat from £115bn bid for Unilever, 20 February), but it shouldn’t be surprising. Climate change ruins crops, increases droughts and damages farmers’ livelihoods. Unilever sells foods and household products that need agricultural produce and water for washing, cooking, drinking and cleaning. Combating climate change makes business more sustainable and keeping the water damages handle is a must to improve the daily life. Lifting people out of poverty in developing countries enables more of them to afford basic everyday life-improving products at a time when developed markets are maturing and people are reachingpeak stuff. Helping people live sustainably makes good business sense. The company’s founder, William Lever, built his business on thisdoing well by doing good philosophy. You wonder why more companies don’t get it.
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It is little wonder Kraft Heinz wanted to get its hands on Unilever’s products when its own are mostly sold in developed markets and struggling to grow. Perhaps if it changed its business model rather than trying to pinch someone else’s business, it would earn not only more income but a reputation more worthy of its founders.
• Felicity Lawrence (The supermarket food gamble may be up, 20 February) is right to highlight the risks and costs of the supermarket model – although I’d also add in the low wages and poor working conditions of workers as a further result of this system. But we should also highlight the possibilities and rewards of building a far more localised food supply system beyond the obviously crucial issue of food security: huge numbers of jobs and small business opportunities, strengthened local economies and fresh food affordably reaching those who need it. Many organisations around the country, from the Kindling Trust in Manchester to Organic Lea in Chingford, Riverside Market Garden outside Cardiff to Sheffield Organic Growers, are doing great work, but we need to make a huge leap in numbers of growers and volume produced. There’s nothing inevitable about the dominance of supermarkets. We need full-scale reformation of how we produce, process and retail food. With innovation we can surely deliver a system that provides far more security from hunger. This should be one of the highest priorities for any government.
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• The corporate world has more money than it knows what to do with. The proposed Kraft-Unilever merger would have repeated the mergers and acquisitions frenzies that preceded financial crashes of the past. Thecost savings that are thebenefits of these concatenated companies, reduce consumption in the real economy and eventually tip global markets into recession.