Communicating Sustainability in China

This Thursday we continued our Sustainability Speech Series at Shanghai University’s College of International Business and Economics. Focusing on “Communicating Sustainability in China”, we invited two industry experts to the talk: Brian Liu, Senior Sustainability Manager of Walmart Global Sourcing, and Helen Zhu, Senior Corporate Communications Manager of Unilever China. Shanghai University’s Professor He Shuquan opened the event, and Chuli Duan of Collective Responsibility moderated the panel.


Both Brian and Helen have profound knowledge on sustainability and communications. Brian has over 10 years’ experience in supply chain responsible sourcing and has worked to help suppliers improve their overall performance in social and environmental compliance. At Walmart Global Sourcing, Brian facilitates hundreds of Chinese factories to enhance their practices in hiring, compensation, working hours, health and safety according to national laws and regulations. He also works to promote among suppliers the use of Sustainability Index, and is the head of Walmart’s China Factory Energy Efficiency program.

Helen joined Unilever in 2004, where her responsibilities include corporate social responsibility, sustainability, corporate brand localization and stakeholder communications. Among the many programs Helen successfully initiated at Unilever was the “Everyone” program, which was carried out in Beijing, Shanghai, Sichuan, Yunnan and Tibet targeting children’s hygiene, nutrition, health and early childhood development. Within three years the program benefited 10,000 children and 50,000 caregivers. The China Committee of Corporate Citizenship awarded Helen with 2013 China Excellent Corporate Citizen Manager for her excellent work at Unilever.

Brian’s presentation focused on explaining Walmart’s vision for sustainability, the methodology of responsible sourcing as well as its global impacts. Some interesting facts he raised include:

  • The Walmart Energy Efficiency program has helped 210 Chinese companies achieve 20% improvements, worth 279 million USD, and 1,760 tons of reduced CO2 emissions per year;
  • By replacing clutch motors with servo motors for sewing machines, a supplier was able to save 120,000 USD and reduce 895 tons of carbon footprint per year;
  • As a result of Walmart’s effort towards sustainability, it ranked 7th among 167 companies with Green Supply China in China by IPE.

Helen then presented the Unilever Sustainable Living Program (USLP). With the ultimate goal to “make sustainable living commonplace”, the program has three big focuses: to help over 1 billion people improve their wellbeing, to halve environmental footprint of our products and to enhance the livelihood of millions of people. Since launched, the program has made remarkable achievements globally:

  • It has helped 397 million people improve health;
  • 33% of Unilever’s products now meet the highest nutritional standards;
  • 37% carbon footprints reduced since 2008;
  • 800,000 farmers gained access to training and supply.

In the Q&A session that followed, the speakers and students further exchanged ideas on effectively aligning sustainable practices across value chain. When asked whether the high sustainability standard Walmart applies might deprive the less “green” suppliers of their access to market, Brian disagreed, saying the company recognizes every small step a company takes to improve their footprint.

Should you wish to learn more about the Sustainability Speech Series, please reach out to Chuli at [email protected] or Yuxin at [email protected]

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