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Eco-efficiency in manufacturing

We want to make our manufacturing as efficient as possible – using fewer resources and generating less waste. Our ambitious eco-efficiency targets focus on water, waste, energy and CO2 and cover all 274 of our manufacturing sites in 69 countries.

Eco-efficiency in manufacturing

Reducing the environmental impacts of our manufacturing – eco-efficiency – is a key part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP). It enables us to reduce our environmental footprint, as our business grows. It reduces costs and contributes to better overall factory performance. The USLP sets out our greenhouse gas, water and waste reduction targets and our ambition to play a leadership role in the transition to a zero carbon economy by becoming carbon positive in our manufacturing by 2030.

Becoming carbon positive in manufacturing

By 2020, CO2 emissions from energy from our factories will be at or below 2008 levels despite producing significantly higher volumes. This represents a reduction of around 40% per tonne of production. Versus a 1995 baseline, this represents a 63% reduction per tonne of production and a 43% absolute reduction.

By 2030 we will become carbon positive in our manufacturing:

  • We will source 100% of our energy across our operations from renewable resources by 2030
  • We will source all our electricity purchased from the grid from renewable resources by 2020
  • We will eliminate coal from our energy mix by 2020
  • In order to achieve our target of carbon positive by 2030, we intend to directly support the generation of more renewable energy than we consume and make the surplus available to the markets and communities in which we operate.
  • All newly built factories will aim to have less than half the impact of those in our 2008 baseline. 

These activities support our engagement the UN Sustainable Development Goal on Clean & Affordable Energy (SDG 7).

Find out more about our greenhouse gas targets and performance, our carbon positive ambition and how we are reducing emissions in our own operations.

Reduce water abstracted by manufacturing sites

By 2020, water abstraction by our global factory network will be at or below 2008 levels, despite significantly higher volumes. This represents a reduction of around 40% per tonne of production. Versus a 1995 baseline, this represents a 78% reduction per tonne of production and a 65% absolute reduction. We will focus in particular on factories in water-scarce locations. Furthermore, all newly built factories will aim to abstract less than half the water of those in our 2008 baseline.

These activities support our engagement the UN Sustainable Development Goal on Clean Water & Sanitation (SDG 6).

Find out more about our water targets and performance and how we are driving water efficiency in our factories.

Reduce waste from manufacturing

By 2020, total waste sent for disposal will be at or below 2008 levels despite significantly higher volumes. This represents a reduction of around 40% per tonne of production. Versus a 1995 baseline, this represents an 80% reduction per tonne of production and a 70% absolute reduction. Furthermore, all newly built factories will aim to generate less than half the waste of those in our 2008 baseline.

These activities support our engagement the UN Sustainable Development Goal on Responsible Consumption & Production (SDG 12).

Find out more about our waste targets and performance and how we are going beyond zero waste to landfill.

Delivering savings

Eco-efficiency is not just about reducing our environmental footprint – it also makes good business sense. The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) delivers significant savings to our business. We collect financial information through our Environmental Performance Reporting system for all manufacturing sites and by each energy and water type, which enables us to measure the economic benefits of our eco-efficiency programme. Since 2008, we have achieved:

  • around €82 million of water savings across our factories
  • around €493 million of energy savings across our factories
  • around €262 million by using less material and producing less waste (materials - around €245 million, waste disposal – around €17 million)

External recognition

Our progress on eco-efficiency has been recognised by external indices:

  • Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) 2017: we were awarded leadership of the Personal Products sector.
  • CDP Climate 2017: we achieved a grade A score and were included in the CDP Climate A List for the sixth year running.
  • CDP Water 2017: we achieved an A grade score and were included in the CDP Water A List.
  • CDP Forests 2017: we achieved an A grade score and were included in the CDP Forest A List.
  • CDP Supply Chain: we achieved an A grade score and were included in the CDP Supplier Engagement A List.
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