Unilever has set out a sweeping global sustainability plan that it claims goes further than the green initiatives of any other company in the food and drink sector.

Unilever's Sustainable Living Plan was more complete than other green commitments because of the work that had already taken place to audit its environmental impact, said Unilever UK & Ireland chairman Amanda Sourry.

Unilever aims to reduce the impact of its business through the complete life cycle of a product from its raw material suppliers through to how consumers use it. By 2020 it plans to have halved the environmental footprint of its products, help one billion people improve their wellbeing and source 100% of its agricultural raw materials sustainably.

Sourry said that Unilever had spent two and a half years auditing the business by monitoring 1,600 products in 14 key territories. It has developed metrics for greenhouse gas use, water use and waste over the entire lifecycle of its products.

"When you look at the amount of Unilever products the average household in the UK buys every year, we have a great opportunity to deliver real and effective social change," she said.