Unilever’s new Durban plant a model of sustainable production

Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr. Rob Davies, today officially opened Unilever’s R670-million state of the art savoury foods plant at Riverhorse Valley in Durban, and endorsed it as one of the largest private investments in South Africa since the 2010 World Cup.

The new plant is named Indonsa, meaning “Morning Star” in IsiZulu, and produces renowned brands such as Knorr, Robertson’s, Knorrox, Aromat and Rajah. It is in start-up phase and will be in full production by the first quarter of next year.

The Indonsa plant has the ability to become the biggest dry food site in Unilever world-wide. It has been designed to produce 65 000 tonnes of product per year and has an expansion capability of up to 100 000 tonnes. The 22 000 square metre factory is equivalent to three soccer fields and is situated on 78 000 square metres of land.

Minister Davies said the investment resonates well with the objectives and priorities of South Africa’s Industry Policy Action Plan (IPAP).

”It is also the first major green field investment since the World Cup, giving a boost to manufacturing investment, production and building local capacity for such products. Such investments confirm that South Africa is indeed a preferred destination for investment.” Davies added that investments such as Indonsa clearly demonstrate the confidence in South Africa as an investment destination and our manufacturing capability.

“Our National Industrial Policy Framework (NIPF) has confirmed that government sees the manufacturing sector continuing to play a pivotal role in ensuring that South Africa achieves higher rates of economic growth that we need. Unilever has been a critical part of the process and we look forward to it continuing to play a role in ensuring that South Africa becomes an even more globally competitive manufacturing location, especially through increased investment in modern plant and energy efficiency, as well as skills development” he added.

Indonsa is a global first for the group in terms of advancing its focus on advanced sustainable “green” technology. It is Unilever’s second largest plant in the world and its 5th plant in South Africa. Globally Unilever operates 250 plants selling about 170 billion products in 180 countries annually.

The global Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) and local chapter, aim to reduce the environmental impact of its entire products by 50%, source 100% of its agricultural raw materials sustainably, and assist a billion people to improve their wellbeing and general health. Indonsa is an example of the USLP delivered in practice.

“The advanced technology in operation at Indonsa sets new global standards in responsible and sustainable dry food production. It embodies our resolve to simultaneously improve the lives of people and to entrench respect for the environment,” said chairman for Unilever South Africa, Marijn van Tiggelen.

He added that Unilever viewed sustainability as a strategic economic and business imperative and vital element of its vision. “For us sustainability now implies responsibility, integrity and moral obligation,” he said. In line with this, the group plans to redress the needs and priorities of South Africa, while contributing to its global targets through its operations and brands.

According to Unilever’s chief supply chain officer, Pier-Luigi Sigismondi, the group aims to globally reduce CO2 emissions from manufacturing and logistics by over 40% by 2020 from its 1995 baseline, at a rate of almost 5% a year.

“It is imperative for Unilever to respond positively to growing global demand for sustainably sourced products. We will continuously reduce our impact across the entire lifecycle of our products and intensify the advancement of new technologies such as used here at Indonsa to achieve our global sustainability objectives,” Sigismondi said.

Carbon reduction is achieved by using energy efficiently controlled zoned lighting throughout the plant, while innovative insulation methods reduce heat loads from the sun to minimise air conditioning requirements.

Super-efficient motors drive mixers and air compressors, reducing energy requirement levels substantially.

Rain falling on the 22 000 square meter roof is channelled into a 1,5 million litre tank, treated and added to recycled water. The application of smart water efficiency technology virtually eliminates municipal supply, enabling the recovery of 70% of all water used in production phases. Other examples of water saving include capturing and treating condensate from air-conditioning, and using it to clean toilets. All process and shower water is recycled via biological and reverse osmosis treatment.

Indonsa’s solid waste is recycled to levels where nothing goes to landfill. This achieved by using recoverable packaging materials. Product waste will be designated for composting in local gardens that support poor communities, while excess is converted by a waste energy plant and the resultant energy is fed back into the national energy grid.

Unilever directly employs 2 700 people full time in South Africa. Head office is in Durban with manufacturing plants in Durban, Pietermaritzburg and Boksburg. It currently has a level 6 BBBEE rating and in 2011 was ranked as one of the country’s best employers, best FMCG employer and best large sized employer. For further information, visit: www.unilever.co.za(Link opens in a new window)

Unilever PLC

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+31 (0) 10 217 4000

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