Most of our emissions come from the raw materials, ingredients and packaging we buy. Climate Specialist Giulia Saladino explains how supporting our suppliers in monitoring and reducing their product carbon footprint will help us get on track for net zero.
Almost 60% of our greenhouse gas (GHG) impact comes from the raw materials and ingredients we buy to make our products. In our Home Care business, which relies heavily on chemicals, this is closer to 80%.
The latest example of this is with our India business, Hindustan Unilever (HUL), where we’re collaborating with leading chemical companies TFL and Fertiglobe (the strategic partnership between OCI Global and ADNOC), to pilot the production of near-zero emissions synthetic soda ash – a key ingredient in laundry powder.
There are three elements to this pilot. The soda ash is made with some of the first green ammonia produced using green hydrogen from renewable energy. The boilers used to make the soda ash have been shifted from coal to renewable energy (cashew kernels). And the CO2 produced by the boilers is captured and used in the manufacturing process, replacing CO2 that would otherwise have to be procured.
The combination of these three elements results in the production of soda ash with a near-zero GHG footprint.
The pilot will help make enough ‘near-zero’ soda ash for about 6,000 tonnes of laundry powder.
Beyond the pilot, we have signed an agreement with TFL to supply us with low GHG soda ash made with renewable energy and CO2 capture and use, reducing GHG emissions by more than 60%.
Doing this while delighting consumers with great, affordable products is at the heart of our strategy.Deepak Subramanian, Home Care General Manager, South Asia
“The pilot addresses greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of the product’s (soda ash) manufacture and we believe it is a world first,” says Deepak Subramanian, Home Care General Manager, South Asia. “Doing this while delighting consumers with great, affordable products is at the heart of our strategy.”
This collaboration between Unilever and the chemicals sector is an example of how we’re bringing different parties in our supply chain together to achieve our net zero ambition while, at the same time, delivering benefits for our partners.
This is one of the first examples of how it can be used to reduce CO2 emissions for an established industrial process.Ahmed El-Hoshy, CEO of Fertiglobe and OCI Global
As Ashwin Muthiah, Chairman of the TFL Group, explains: “To drive the emission reductions required in the chemicals industry, we are working together to develop new technologies and processes. We’re excited to be partnering with Unilever to produce industry-leading near-zero emissions synthetic soda ash with a view to it being scaled up.”
This is echoed by Ahmed El-Hoshy, CEO of Fertiglobe and OCI Global, who adds: “This exciting development is at the forefront of the home care industry’s utilising green ammonia as an emerging decarbonisation tool. This is one of the first examples of how it can be used to reduce CO2 emissions for an established industrial process.”
Addressing the challenge of value chain emissions
HUL is on track to achieve Unilever’s global target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions from our operations (known as scope 1 and 2 emissions) by 100% by 2030 (against a 2015 baseline). However, these are a small proportion of our overall emissions. The bigger part – the so-called scope 3 emissions – include those associated with the production of the raw materials and ingredients we purchase from our suppliers.
These emissions are much more difficult to tackle because they require progress of entire, often global, supply chains. As such, to reach our net zero target, we must work with our suppliers to help them take action within their own operations and value chains.
In India, where we source many of the ingredients we use locally, we’ve just started accelerating that work. At a recent event, we asked some of our key supply partners to pledge to work with us on emissions reduction, including through participation in our global to reduce emissions in their operations and beyond.
These suppliers are at different stages of their climate journey. Some have given little focus to their carbon footprint, while others have bold plans and are making substantial investments.
Through the programme, we are providing tailored support through upskilling and capacity building to help suppliers develop their emissions reduction plans, and measure and share footprint data for the products Unilever buys. The fact that our supplier solutions are industry aligned, rather than Unilever bespoke, means that suppliers can easily share their product footprint data with other customers – we won’t be the only ones asking them to take climate action in future.
In parallel, we’re partnering on specific technological developments with our most advanced suppliers, such as TFL.
The fact that our supplier solutions are industry aligned, rather than Unilever bespoke, means that suppliers can easily share their product footprint data with other customers – we won’t be the only ones asking them to take climate action in future.
“Finding alternatives to fossil fuel-based chemicals is going to be a huge challenge for Unilever in reaching net zero by 2039, but it’s a challenge we must not shy away from,” says Willem Uijen, Unilever’s Chief Procurement Officer. “I have seen first-hand why partnering with purpose is so important to Unilever, to work together to innovate and help bring solutions to scale.”
We must work together with our suppliers to tackle their greenhouse gas emissions in order to bring our own to net zero. Stella Constantatos, Senior Manager in our Business Operations Sustainability team, explains why.
Jon Hague, Head of Clean Future, Science and Technology for Home Care, explains how chemical innovation is reducing the carbon footprint of our cleaning products.