Reducing emissions from the use of our products
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Our brands are reducing the climate impact of our products.
Around two-thirds of our products’ climate footprint occurs when they leave the shelves and go home with our consumers. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from small everyday actions at home, such as heating water for a hot shower or bath, doing laundry, boiling the kettle, or using electricity or gas to heat food – they all add up. Tackling these indirect emissions from our products ‘in use’ is a major challenge, but one we’re working to address.
Our goal is to halve GHG emissions per consumer use of our products by 2030. This medium-term target is an intensity target, not an absolute target, which guides our innovation and helps us monitor our performance.
Reducing the carbon footprint of our products in use
Our brands are working to halve the GHG footprint of a cup of tea, a laundry load or a hair wash by the end of this decade. Our target is to reduce emissions ‘per consumer use’, to make sure we’re taking account of the full GHG emissions of our products when they’re used at home, based on the latest science.
There’s a limit to how much we can influence emissions from product use as consumers make their own choices on how long they shower, which energy provider they use, and how efficient their home appliances are. We’re therefore reliant, as many companies are, on the decarbonisation of the energy grid to reduce our downstream Scope 3 footprint. We’re using our influence to advocate for system-wide change, such as acceleration of renewable energy globally, which will help reduce emissions in consumers’ homes.
Our GHG emissions per consumer use have reduced by 19% since 2010 and by 5% since 2021. In 2022, our indirect consumer use emissions fell by 11% from 2021. This was driven by a number of factors, across many of our key markets: grid energy decarbonisation in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey, sales mix changes and higher product volume growth in markets where cold washing and handwashing is predominant. This reduction in indirect consumer use emissions was the primary driver of the 5% reduction in our full value chain GHG emissions per consumer use since 2021.
-19%Reduction in GHG emissions per consumer across the product lifecycle since 2010.
We're committed to using technology and innovation to provide consumers with superior and lower carbon products while growing our business. This is already visible in Home Care’s (with a focus on renewable and recycled carbon ingredients), in Foods & Refreshment’s (with a focus on plant-based foods), and Beauty & Personal Care’s (with a focus on sustainable sourcing, deforestation-free palm oil and nature-based solutions).
Powering homes with renewable energy
We’ve learnt that tackling the climate impact of our products means changing the system in which we all operate. So, we’re advocating for a rapid decarbonisation of the global energy system to achieve faster carbon reductions.
The greatest GHG impact from using our products lies in heating water for showering and washing when our products are used at home. Deep and lasting progress on our climate goals means we need home hot water use – over which we have little direct control – to become far more sustainable for consumers.
This means shifting the entire energy system away from fossil fuels to renewable sources such as wind, solar and water power, and biomass, hydrogen and geothermal technologies. If every consumer’s shower or laundry cycle used hot water powered from renewable electricity rather than fossil fuel sources, we could decouple climate change from everyday consumer actions at home.
Achieving this is complex and it lies beyond our remit as one company. We need governments to lead the way. But we’re working hard to shape progressive policies that will help transform our society, economy and energy systems. We’re advocating for the decarbonisation of energy grids through global campaigns including RE100 and the .
Brands taking climate action
Our brands are some of our strongest levers in our fight against climate change – advocating for change and inspiring people to take climate action.
We have a responsibility to help tackle the climate crisis: as a business, and through direct action by our brands.Alan Jope, former Unilever CEO
As public concern about climate change and biodiversity loss reaches an all-time high, our brands are engaging consumers on these issues – and building brand loyalty too.
Our brands can now draw from our dedicated €1 billion . Over the next ten years, our brands across every division will invest in meaningful and decisive climate action and nature protection projects, such as landscape restoration, reforestation, carbon sequestration, wildlife protection and water preservation projects.
We’ve recruited a specialist team to lead the Fund’s work, formulate the strategy and get started on project implementation. We’ve already spent and committed €0.2 billion and are now building a pipeline of further projects. For example, Knorr will use the fund to support 50 regenerative agriculture projects. These are predicted to reduce GHG emissions and water use by an estimated 30% while improving biodiversity, soil health and livelihoods.
Communicating the carbon footprint of products
We believe that transparency about carbon impacts will help accelerate progress in the global race to zero carbon. Practically, this means giving consumers the information they need to make sustainable choices. It’s our ambition to communicate the carbon footprint of every product we sell to consumers.
After more than a decade of work assessing the carbon footprint of our products, we're now working with others across the value chain to standardise data collection protocols and communication frameworks.
We’re creating partnerships with other businesses and organisations to standardise GHG data collection, sharing and communication. For example, we’re part of the WBCSD pathfinder project with other global climate leaders like Microsoft. Together we’re aiming to increase the accuracy of carbon data for ingredients and raw materials, so that we can quickly and easily build a clear picture of the lifecycle impact of products. We’re also working with the to develop an industry-standard environmental impact assessment and scoring system.