Unilever becomes latest global partner to Ellen MacArthur Foundation

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has announced Unilever as its latest Global Partner, joining a group of key industry players working to pilot and test circular economy practices at scale.

Joining the foundations four existing Global Partners – Cisco, Kingfisher, Philips and Renault – the partnership will focus on supporting Unilever as a ‘pathfinder’ in unlocking the value of the circular economy within the fast-moving consumer goods industry (FMCG).

In his foreword which opened the Foundation’s second economic report, Towards the Circular Economy Vol.2: opportunities for the consumer goods sector, Unilever CEO, Paul Polman, stated: “The concept of a circular economy promises a way out. Here products do not quickly become waste, but are reused to extract their maximum value before safely and productively returning to the biosphere.

“Most importantly for business leaders, such an economy can deliver growth. Innovative product designers and business leaders are already venturing into this space,” added Polman.

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Unilever has the potential to pilot circularity across global fast-moving supply chains, and with a reported two billion consumers worldwide using a Unilever product each day, the “opportunity to test it at scale is clear”.

The Foundation outlined in its second economic report that the FMCG sector is a $700bn opportunity, and as the consumer goods industry is starting to embrace the potential of the circular model this opportunity is bearing fruit.

The economic benefits achieved from reuse in durables have proved easier than those initially captured from consumer goods – such as food and beverages or apparel and their packaging – which are short-lived and often transformed during use.

However, recovering part of the $2.6trn of material value lost each year is a huge opportunity for fast-moving consumer goods companies and, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Unilever will prove to be an important pathfinder within the industry.

Leigh Stringer

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