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Creating unusual alliances to drive sustainable growth


Unilever, in partnership with sustainability network 2degrees, has brought together an unusual alliance of partners including Coca-Cola and GSK, a mountain climber and schoolchildren to explore how we achieved our target of sending zero non-hazardous waste from our factories to landfill, and how others could do the same.

School children present the zero waste argument to Unilever

Some 150 attendees found out how the zero waste initiative - which covered our global factory network of more than 240 factories in 67 countries - has helped achieve €220 million of cost savings and created more than 1,000 job opportunities.

The aim of the event was to look for even greater business benefits, and have a bigger positive impact on the planet, through co-operation with others in our value chains and the wider market.

Two inspirational stories of change

Attendees heard how in Chile’s capital Santiago, we have joined forces with Nestlé, Walmart, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo on the Collective Recycling Project. Through a network of five recycling centres, the project aims to recycle approximately 1,200 tonnes of waste each year and get useful energy recovery data to feed back into design and innovation.

The second key example was our partnership with Holcim, the global building materials company. It now receives our residual waste which we can’t find a recycling route for, to use as a cleaner, alternative to fossil fuel to generate electricity for their operations. “Thinking about sustainability and sustainable solutions is not a nice-to-have, it is a licence to operate. We are aware that in order to reach our targets, working with partners is key. So when Unilever approached us, it took me five seconds to say ‘yes’,” said Holcim CEO, Bernard Fontana.

Creating a winning mindset

Tony Dunnage and Javier Huerta from the our Sustainable Manufacturing and Supply Chain Strategies team talked about their experience of working with Dave Bunting, a mountaineer and Everest veteran, whose coaching helped them achieve a mindset to accelerate progress.

Amrou Awaysheh, Professor of Operations Management at the Kelley School of Business Indianapolis said, “There are a lot of areas where we can make the world a better place if we work together. Waste, energy, carbon, water, working conditions in the developing world. We need to develop a win-win-win mindset to make a difference together.”

The children’s challenge

Led by Hollie Dunnage, our ‘Citizen of a Zero Waste Future’, teams of schoolchildren worked up ideas on how to eliminate waste and challenged everyone to take home a tiny bin – but only if they were committing to zero waste in their company and home! The same bin that sits on Chief Supply Chain Officer Pier Luigi Sigismondi’s desk as a symbol of our commitment to eliminating waste.

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