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Towards ‘Carbon Positive’: how we are generating renewable energy

Find out how our factories around the world are generating their own power to help meet our Carbon Positive ambition – and support our business growth.

Supporting climate action by generating renewables

Biomass boiler at factory Solar panels in Pakistan

We have installed metering and monitoring equipment, which cover 60% of our energy footprint, giving us near real-time data that we can turn into insights to drive action and improve performance

Tony Dunnage, Group Manufacturing Sustainability Director

All around the world our factories are developing new methods to generate renewable energy to help us meet the bold Carbon Positive 2030 ambition we announced at last year’s climate summit in Paris.

Across our manufacturing sites, around a third of all energy currently comes from renewable sources, and around 20% of our manufacturing sites already have some form of on-site energy generation – such as solar panels, solar thermal systems, biogas generation, hydro-electric power or the ability to use biomass as a fuel – and this will continue to grow.

That’s because we’re committed to using 100% renewable energy in our operations, eliminating fossil fuels from our business, and directly supporting the generation of more renewable energy than we consume by 2030. Reducing our emissions, purchasing more renewable energy and generating our own renewable energy all play an important part in our Carbon Positive journey.

Why renewables make business sense

We consider our carbon positive commitment to be a responsible contribution to combating climate change and helping meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy. We also believe it makes sense for our business.

Producing renewable energy can create direct savings for us because reducing our demand for fossil fuels and grid electricity helps to cut our energy bills. An affordable, reliable supply of energy also helps us plan for the future, protecting us against the volatility of energy markets and fuel shortages.

Renewable energy driving growth in Pakistan

In 2016, Unilever Pakistan built on their longstanding efforts to move away from diesel. Two of our factories in Pakistan are showing how the switch to renewable energy can bring a range of benefits. Our Foods & Refreshment factory in Pernawan is currently generating around 85% of its energy from renewable sources. The factory has installed the highest capacity solar plant within our South Asian operations which has a capacity of 200kW and delivers up to 25% of the site’s electricity. In addition, approximately 100% of the steam the factory uses is generated using biomass fuels.

Our tea factory in Khanewal was one of the pioneers in the installation of Solar Grid Tied systems in Pakistan. Their solar system delivers around 40% of the factory's energy needs – the maximum amount currently possible. As well as reducing emissions and reliance on fossil fuels, both factories have seen energy bills fall.

Biomass milestone in South Africa

Sustainable use of biomass as a fuel is another way in which we are generating renewable energy. At our Beauty & Personal Care factory in South Africa, the team has switched around 50% of its energy to a carbon neutral source. Before the switch, three conventional boilers were generating the steam needed – but costs were spiralling. Therefore, one boiler was converted to biomass and now generates around 75% of the site’s steam.

Hydroelectricity in Kenya

At our Kericho tea plantation in Kenya, over 90% of the energy used on site comes from renewable sources. The river that runs through the estate generates hydroelectric power which provides around 70% of the plantation’s electricity. This is one of Unilever’s longest-running renewable energy sources, which has been used on the estate since the 1920s.

An important part of wider climate action

We know that generating renewable energy at our factories is not the only answer to combat climate change. We continue to work with others on wider issues including deforestation and the way consumers use our products, as well as reducing our own energy use and emissions – for example, we expect to have reduced our CO2 emissions by over 40% by the end of this year, compared to 2008.

Tony Dunnage, our Group Manufacturing Sustainability Director, says: “We continue to drive energy reduction programmes across our factories. We have installed metering and monitoring equipment, which cover 60% of our energy footprint, giving us near real-time data that we can turn into insights to drive action and improve performance. Overall, embracing affordable, clean energy helps us to reduce cost, reduce risk and reduce pollution helping, us to become a more competitive and agile business.”

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