The leading consumer goods company, whose brands include Magnum, Knorr, Dove and Domestos, set itself the zero waste to landfill target in 2012 as part of its Sustainable Living Plan (USLP). Achieving this milestone is a global first at this scale, the company says. 

Unilever’s chief supply chain officer Pier Luigi Sigismondi said: “Reaching this landmark is the result of a huge mind-set shift throughout our organisation and a great example of Unilever driving sustainable business growth. Thousands of employees – our ‘zero-makers’ – from across the business have developed some really innovative solutions to eliminate waste. I am incredibly proud of what we and our partners have achieved.”

This target forms a key element of Unilever’s sustainable growth ambitions to double the size of the business while reducing its environmental impact. Unilever has tasked itself with three aims as part of its USLP; to help more than a billion people improve their health and wellbeing, decouple growth from environmental impact, and enhance the livelihood of millions of people by 2020. 

Waste Solutions

The company has focused on embedding a ‘zero waste mind-set’ to rapidly accelerate the speed of the global roll out programme; increase resource resilience and reach the USLP target well ahead of the 2020 schedule. In 2010, only 52 sites had achieved zero waste. Unilever has adopted the four ‘R’ approach of reducing waste at source and then reusing, recovering or recycling any non-hazardous waste that remains.

Examples of solutions Unilever is applying to the problem of waste include turning it into low-cost building materials in Cote D’Ivoire, composting organic materials for local communities for growing food in India, and using waste in the manufacture of bricks and paving in China.

Unilever’s excellent sustainability achievements led it to be named the Food Products Industry leader in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and it being awarded a Gold Class distinction by RobecoSAM in their Sustainability Yearbook 2015 last week.

“However, we cannot stop here,” Sigismondi added. “Our focus now is on becoming a zero waste company and working towards a zero waste value chain by encouraging our suppliers and customers to join us on this mission. We are also committed to developing an open source approach and sharing our ‘zero waste framework’ and experience with other organisations to drive global change and create a more sustainable future.” 

Lucinda Dann

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