Unilever makes 100% renewables pledge after saving a million tonnes of CO2
Unilever has revealed that its factories have saved more than a tonnes of carbon since 2008, as the consumer goods giant today (18 May) made a major commitment to switch to using 100% renewable energy.
The carbon savings were driven by a 20% cut in energy consumption across the Dutch firm’s manufacturing sites – a cut which also saved €244m.
Unilever chief supply chain officer Pier Luigi Sigismondi said: “We’re delighted to have hit this milestone in our CO2 reduction.
“Reducing our energy consumption not only cuts our greenhouse gas emissions – the equivalent in carbon of 800,000 acres of forest each year – but also cuts our costs.”
Sigismondi added that a commitment to renewables had also helped with the emssions drops.
“Across our supply chain we are increasingly turning to energy provided by wind, solar and biomass, converting heat from our manufacturing processes into power for our factories. We are on track to reach our target of 40% renewable energy by 2020.”
The announcement was made at the start of Climate Week Paris (18-22 May), where Unilever also announced it was joining RE100 – a campaign to switch to 100% renewable energy across business operations. Existing members of the campaign include Ikea, Nestle and Mars.
Unilever currently gets 39% of its electricity (and 28% of its total energy) from renewable sources, including all of the electricity used in its North American and European factories.
Mark Kenber, CEO of The Climate Group, which organises the Climate Week event, said: “This announcement from Unilever reflects their innovative, forward thinking commitment to a sustainable and low carbon future. They recognise that using renewable energy makes clear business sense, bringing them continued growth and benefitting their bottom line.
Closing the loop
Alongside renewable energy, Unilever said that circular economy approaches had helped deliver CO2 savings. In South Africa for example, a byproduct of the seed oil from Flora is used as a fuel in the boilers to deliver energy back into the factory.
In the group’s UK Marmite factory, 18,000 tonnes of solid Marmite waste is converted into methane via an anaerobic digester which is used to provide 30% of the factory’s thermal energy.
Unilever has also leveraged its green expertise to create a line of ‘Sustainable Living’ brands, which accounted for half of the company’s growth in 2014 and grew at twice the rate of the rest of the business.
In January, the company announced it was sending zero non-hazardous waste to landfill from its global factory network of 240 factories in 67 countries, saving more than €200m in waste disposal costs.