Reducing environmental impact

Unilever's work on reducing environmental impact supports

8 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Select one of the goals to find out how we're taking action in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Find out how we’re realising the business opportunity from the SDGs
Clean Water and Sanitation

Clean Water and Sanitation

Nearly a billion people defecate in the open and around 2.5 billion people live without adequate sanitation. Addressing water, sanitation and hygiene needs is a significant opportunity for Unilever. Several of our brands directly address these needs through innovative partnerships which drive growth and deliver positive impact at scale.

Domestos, which grew 10% in 2017, has committed to help 25 million people gain improved access to a toilet. Through our partnership with UNICEF, over 10 million people between 2012 and 2016 gained access to a toilet through behaviour-change interventions and capacity-building initiatives – contributing positively to consumer sentiment around the brand.

Pureit, our water purification business, is another brand that is well positioned to address clean water needs in India. It has provided 96 billion litres of safe drinking water since 2005 through the sale of water purifiers, well on its way towards its ambition of providing 150 billion litres by 2020.

Lifebuoy is the world’s number one antibacterial soap, sold in nearly 60 countries, which grew 6% in 2017. It has championed the message of better health through hygiene for well over a century. Since 2010, its programme has reached over 426 million people through schools, health clinics and community outreach – boosting sales in countries with high rates of diarrhoea-related child deaths, such as India.

Explore how Unilever is taking action

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Our Big Goal Reducing environmental impact by half
By 2030 our goal is to halve the environmental footprint of the making and use of our products as we grow our business.

Reducing environmental impact

Decoupling growth from our environmental impact

Part of our Vision is to grow our business whilst decoupling our environmental impact from our growth. We consider the reduction of our greenhouse gas (GHG), water and waste impacts across our value chain, from sourcing our raw materials to within our own manufacturing and operations and consumer use. We also aim to source our agricultural raw materials sustainably.

Reducing the environmental impact of how consumers use our products continues to prove difficult, as our performance on reducing GHG and Water impact per consumer use demonstrates. However, in those areas where we have control over our impacts – such as our own manufacturing - we are making excellent progress.

Our performance: GHG, water, waste & sustainable sourcing

Our environmental targets for GHG, water and waste are expressed on a ‘per consumer use’ basis. This means a single use, portion or serving of a product, such as the impact of one load of laundry. Our performance is measured against a baseline of 2010.

+9% greenhouse gas emissions across the lifecycle
-2% water associated with consumer use of our products
-29% waste associated with the disposal of our products per consumer use
56% agricultural raw materials sourced sustainably

Our performance: Manufacturing

Our performance is measured against a baseline of 2008.

-47% CO2 emissions from energy per tonne of production
-39% water abstraction per tonne of production
-98% total waste sent for disposal per tonne of production
Over €490m of costs avoided via eco-efficiency since 2008
Key:
Achieved
On-plan
Off-plan
% Of target achieved

Our approach

We want to play our part in tackling climate change and reduce the depletion of natural resources. It makes business sense to reduce our risk by securing sustainable sources of supply for raw materials, to cut costs through reducing packaging materials and higher manufacturing efficiencies, and to appeal to more consumers with sustainable, purpose-led brands.

Our approach, which directly supports a number of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, focuses on:

  • Taking global climate action and protecting our forests
  • Championing sustainable agriculture, focused land use and food security
  • Helping consumers to recycle more and use less water and less energy through producing products with a lower environmental impact
  • Making our manufacturing and distribution more eco-efficient
  • Advocating public policy to tackle climate change.

The environmental pillars of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan are supported by our Environmental Policy (PDF | 168KB).

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Reducing environmental impact pillars

Greenhouse gases

Eliminating fossil fuels in manufacturing

Taking action on climate change is a necessity - but it’s also a chance to grow our business by responding to opportunities across our value chain.

Water use

Water use and water centre

We’re addressing the challenge of water scarcity holistically, so consumers can enjoy our products and our business can thrive in a water-constrained world.

Waste & packaging

recycling in brazil

Every minute, the equivalent of one rubbish truck of plastic leaks into streams and rivers, ultimately ending up in the ocean. We want to move towards a more circular economy, so that more plastic has the best possible chance to be reused or recycled.

Sustainable sourcing

Palm oil farmer

Growing for the future – sustainable sourcing has never been more important.

Other areas of focus

Eco-efficiency in manufacturing

Eco-efficiency in manufacturing

We want to make our manufacturing as efficient as possible – using fewer resources and generating less waste.

Natural capital

Natural capital

We rely on nature for many of the ingredients and raw materials that make up our products. We are working in partnership with others to explore how natural capital can be better integrated into business decision-making.

Lifecycle Assessments

Woman working on production line

Understanding and managing lifecycle impacts is crucial to achieving our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan targets.

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