The circular economy
We have reduced our energy consumption by 20% – the same amount of energy used to run 40 factories or the equivalent in carbon of over 800,000 acres of forest in one year.
This has been possible through a global strategy which includes ‘circular economy’ approaches. For example, in South Africa, we use a by-product of the seed oil from spreads manufacture to fuel boilers that deliver energy back into the plant. In our UK Marmite factory, 18,000 tonnes of waste is converted into methane via an anaerobic digester which is used to provide 30% of the facility’s thermal energy.
These CO2 savings have, in turn, resulted in cost savings of €244 million across our global factory network.
Aiming for 100% renewable
We have been assessing our greenhouse gas emissions since 1995. Reducing energy use not only benefits the environment but also has a clear business purpose as it helps us drive down costs and means we are less exposed to changes in the energy price market, which improves business resilience.
We will continue to reduce our energy consumption and switch to renewable sources where cost effective. In Europe and North America, all the electricity used in our factories is from renewable sources. Across the network, that figure stands at 28% with a target of 40% by 2020. We will work towards 100% in the future.
Industry-wide campaigns and partnerships
We have signed up to the which aims to accelerate the scale-up of renewable power to create a healthier and more sustainable environment. Led by The Climate Group, the campaign’s goal is for 100 of the world’s most influential businesses to commit to 100% renewable power.
Mark Kenber, CEO of The Climate Group, says: "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. Becoming a member of RE100 – a campaign that celebrates and supports major corporations committed to 100% renewable power – demonstrates their leadership in helping to accelerate the transformation of the global energy market."
We are also helping other industries reduce their carbon emissions. In Indonesia, for example, sludge waste goes into another company’s cement as a material. This contributes to CO2 reduction, as the cement industry is the world’s sixth biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
Sustainability is a driver for growth
Unilever’s Chief Supply Chain Officer, Pier Luigi Sigismondi, says: “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.
“Climate change is having a huge impact on the environment and on business. Ahead of Climate Week in Paris, we are continuing to show that sustainability is a driver for growth, and the only long-term option for business in a volatile world.”