Toggle Search

  1. Home
  2. Sustainable Living
  3. Reducing environmental impact
  4. 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. Our ambitious eco-efficiency targets focus on water, waste, energy and CO2 and cover all 263 of our manufacturing sites in 71 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. 

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.

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.

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

Over €700 million in cumulative cost avoidance since 2008

Eco-efficiency is not just about reducing our environmental footprint – it also makes good business sense. 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 a cumulative cost avoidance of over €700 million from eco-efficiency in our factories:

  • Water - around €60 million
  • Energy - around €405 million
  • Waste and materials – around €250 million (waste disposal – around €15 million; Materials - around €240 million)

External recognition

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

  • Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI): we were awarded leadership of the Household & Personal Products Industry Group in DJSI, with a score of 92. 2016 was the first year that Unilever was classified in this Industry Group. We had previously been awarded leadership of the Foods Sector for 15 out of 16 years.
  • CDP Climate 2016: we achieved a grade A score and were included in the CDP Climate A List for the fifth year running, following 100A score in 2015.
  • CDP Water 2016: we achieved an A grade score and were included in the CDP Water A List.
Back to top