Unilever achieves carbon-neutrality at 5 UK sites following green gas deal

Just over a year on from announcing its pioneering pledge to become a carbon-positive business by 2030, Unilever has signed a contract to use biomethane to power five of its sites across the UK and Ireland.

Unilever’s offices in Leatherhead (Surrey) and 100 Victoria Embankment (London), and the group’s food and drink factories in Norwich, Trafford Park and Cork, are now making use of 10,000 MWh of biomethane to power the sites’ heating, significantly reducing carbon emissions.

With Unilever’s electricity already coming from certified-renewable sources, the purchase of a certified supply of bioemethane means that the consumer goods business has become carbon-neutral from energy sources at these five sites.

Unilever UK & Ireland’s sustainable business director Charlotte Carroll said: “In 2015, just as world leaders came together for COP21 (the United Nations Climate Change Conference), our business committed to making our operations carbon-positive by 2030.  The ambitious target encouraged us to look carefully at our sites through a fresh, sustainability lens which helped to inspire our landmark agreement with GENeco.

“With biomethane still in its relative infancy compared to other forms of renewable energy, this agreement marks a significant step forward in helping us source 100% renewable energy for five of our UK and Ireland sites. Recognising that this is only the start of our journey, we hope to build on this great foundation and eventually convert waste from our own operations into energy to truly support a circular economy.”

‘Step change’

The biomethane, which is fully traceable and certified, is generated by GENeco’s anaerobic digester in Avonmouth, which converts inedible food waste and sewage into energy. This is in line with Unilever’s Biomass Sourcing Standard policy, which states that biomass fuels shall not comprise agricultural residues or food waste that could otherwise have been used as food for human consumption.

Mohammed Saddiq, managing director of GENeco – which has itself been a carbon-neutral and zero-waste-to-landfill business since 2013 – said: “This deal marks a significant step change in the decarbonisation of UK industry and we are very pleased to be working with Unilever to help in their aims to become carbon-positive.

“We believe that, in order for the UK to meet the 2020 targets as defined in the Renewable Energy Directive, there will need to be an increasing role for biomethane in the UK’s heat networks.”

Since the launch of the Sustainable Living Plan in 2010, the global fast-moving consumer goods company has cut its manufacturing greenhouse gas footprint by 39% per tonne of production since 2008 – the equivalent of one million tonnes of CO2 a year.

Through its carbon-positive ambition, Unilever has pledged to source 100% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030; source all electricity purchased from the grid from renewable sources by 2020; eliminate coal from its energy mix by 2020; and directly support the generation of more renewable energy than the company consumes and make the surplus available to the markets and communities in which it operates.

Luke Nicholls

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