Unilever Japan switches to 100% renewable energy

Unilever Japan has switched to 100% renewable power for all its domestic operations, making it the first Unilever business to do so.

The move means all Unilever products we make in Japan will be able to carry a new Green Power logo on packaging, providing a highly visible point of difference for consumers and a clear indicator of Unilever’s sustainability credentials. It will also cut carbon emissions by 3,600 tonnes every year. 

The issue of energy sourcing is particularly sensitive in Japan. Until March 2011, 30% of the country’s energy came from nuclear power but all that changed when an earthquake and tsunami caused cooling systems at the Fukushima nuclear power plant to fail. 

The country’s 54 nuclear reactors were completely closed down. Only one has since re-opened, leaving the nation reliant on alternative fuel sources such as coal.

Enormous potential

Sunflower field and wind turbines, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan Biomass factory Geothermal Japan

“Japan is the world’s third-largest economy, and with the country’s reputation for advanced technology, we knew there was enormous potential for us to become a role model in creating and supporting a market for renewable energy,” says Fulvio Guarneri, Vice President, Unilever Japan. 

The first step involved assessing the energy consumption and carbon emissions of Unilever Japan’s offices, factories, R&D centres, Lipton shops and teahouses, Ben & Jerry’s stores and ice cream freezers. 

Unilever teams then looked for examples of best practice from a range of prominent Japanese firms including Toyota, Sony and Nissan. They also met with representatives from the Japan Natural Energy Company to discuss how the challenge of sourcing 100% of the company’s energy from renewable sources could be achieved, with the purchase of Green Power certificates. Money paid for the certificates is used to maintain and expand renewable power generation facilities.

Carbon-neutral products

The result is that, since 1 November, all of Unilever Japan’s energy use supports the generation of renewable power – a milestone that means 32% of Unilever products sold in the country (those that have been made at Unilever sites in Japan) have been made in carbon neutral factories.

Eligible products – including Dove, Lux, Clear, Timotei and Lipton – will be stamped with the Green Power logo from Q1 2016, depending on stock holdings. Branding to promote the switch to renewable energy will also feature on stickers and posters in Ben & Jerry’s shops and ice cream freezers across the country. And the journey towards sustainably sourced power isn’t ending there.

The end-to-end ambition

“Next we’re aiming to work with our third-party manufacturers and logistics providers to collect data on their energy consumption related to Unilever. We want to work with them to achieve 100% renewable energy end to end across our supply chain,” explains Andrew Bowers, Supply Chain Director, Unilever Japan. 

“It would allow us to feature the Green Power stamp on further products, covering 90% of the products Unilever sells in Japan. The remaining 10% are imported."

”Achieving 100% renewable energy is part of Unilever Japan’s wider commitment to sustainable business growth. In addition to the renewables milestone, Unilever Japan is already at zero non-hazardous waste to landfill in factories and has extended this commitment to include all third-party logistics and third-party manufacturing partners.

A clear business purpose

Unilever has been assessing its greenhouse gas emissions since 1995. Reducing energy use not only benefits the environment but also has a clear business purpose, as it helps to drive down costs and means Unilever is less exposed to changes in the energy price market, improving business resilience. 

Unilever will continue to reduce its energy consumption, and will switch to renewable energy where cost effective. Across the globe, 28% of the energy used by Unilever factories comes from renewable sources, with 39% of electrical energy produced from this source.

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