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Our eco-efficiency performance

We made good progress in 2017 against our targets for CO2, energy, water and waste in manufacturing, reducing our environmental impact and saving money for the business.

Our eco-efficiency targets

The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan commits us to long-term targets for CO2 from energy, renewable energy, water and total waste.

To ensure we make progress year on year, we also set annual global targets for each of our eco-efficiency performance indicators. Our regions and divisions assign targets to specific manufacturing sites in order to deliver our overall targets.

2017 manufacturing performance summary and progress

-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
% Of target achieved

We use four principal indicators to monitor eco-efficiency improvements against our annual performance targets and since 2008 (our baseline for the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan). Data covers 274 manufacturing sites and indicators are reported per tonne of production. This section details how we set our targets and the scope of our data.

ParameterUnits (per tonne of production)
Target: 2017 annual reduction target (% vs 2016)2017 performance reduction since 2016 (%)2017 performance: reduction since 2008 (%)
CO2 from energykg/tonne5.0%8.1%
Energy useGJ/tonne3.0%2.8%
Total water abstractedm3/tonne3.0%2.8%39%

Eco-efficiency is not just about reducing our environmental footprint – it also makes good business sense. Since 2008, we have achieved cost avoidance from eco-efficiency in our factories of around €82 million in water savings, €493 million in energy savings and around €262 million by using less material and producing less waste.

Additional indicators

We have been reporting and monitoring our eco-efficiency performance for over 20 years. In addition to our four principal indicators we use a number of other metrics to track progress.

This table summarises our performance since 1995.

ParameterUnits (per tonne of production)19952015201620172017 performance: Change compared to 2016 (%)Φ2017 performance: Change compared to 1995 (%)
CO2 from energykg/tonne238.788.583.576.77-8.1%-67.8%
Total waterm3/tonne7.951.881.851.80-2.8%-77.3%
Total CODkg/tonne3.941.14ж1.171.13-3.4%-71.4%
Disposed wastekg/tonne24.270.260.350.18-49.5%-99.3%

Independently assured by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) LLP for 2015, 2016 and 2017

ж The COD values from effluent discharge were under-reported in 2015 for 4 sites. We have calculated 2015 COD values for these sites using actual data, where available, and estimates. The total adjustment results in emissions of chemical oxygen demand (COD) in kg per tonne of production to be restated for 2015 from 0.95 to 1.14.

Φ The numbers in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 columns are rounded. Percentage change therefore reflects underlying numbers, not the rounded values stated in this table.

You can find out more about our performance in other sections of our website. CO2 from energy and energy use are covered in detail in reducing emissions in our own operations. Water use is discussed in driving water efficiency in our factories, and waste in going beyond a zero waste business.

Environmental prosecutions and fines

We aim to maintain the highest possible standards of environmental management. However, occasionally we do encounter setbacks. We monitor and report all occurrences of environmental prosecutions and resulting fines associated with infringements from our manufacturing sites. The table below shows these since 2004. The data is reported for 100% of our factory sites.

Number of factory sites in UnileverNumber of prosecutions/finesTotal cost of fines (€)

^ Violation occurred in 2008.

ɵ Violation occurred in 2016.

Δ Restated to include penalties from the US that were paid in 2016

How we collect data

We collect eco-efficiency data from our manufacturing sites monthly using our web-based reporting system. This covers both key measures of environmental performance and qualitative measures of environmental management. Manufacturing sites also report detailed utility cost data, enabling us to measure the financial benefits associated with eco-efficiency. Financial achievements and environmental benefits are included in our routine management reports.

We continually improve how we collect and report data. Since 2007, we have focused on improving our reporting on renewable energy, biogenic fuels and our resulting CO2 emissions, with reference to the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Protocol. This enables us to monitor performance more closely and act quickly to maintain progress against targets.

In parallel, through a globally co-ordinated programme, many of our manufacturing sites make use of real-time eco-efficiency data, collected through automated measurement, monitoring and targeting (MM&T) systems. This helps them to better track their performance and identify reduction opportunities. We now have more than 80,000 data reading points across the manufacturing network. By the end of 2018, we are aiming to have 100% of sites covered by the MM&T programme.

Scope of data 2017

Our data for 2017 covers our 274 manufacturing sites across the reporting period 1 October 2016 – 30 September 2017.

We adjusted our reporting period in 2013. Data for years prior to 2013 is for calendar year (1 January - 31 December).

Our data does not cover third-party companies that manufacture or pack our products, with the proportion of total production volume varying across regions and product divisions. We aim to improve the environmental impact of these products with our suppliers through our Partner to Win programme.

Assurance of data

Our eco-efficiency data has been independently assured since 1996.

In 2017 PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) provided independent limited assurance of 11 environmental manufacturing indicators. PwC's work in 2017 included visiting a sample of 9 manufacturing sites around the world, 2 desktop reviews and reviewing the data collection, aggregation, validation and reporting processes used for these indicators.

The definitions and basis of reporting of the environmental manufacturing performance indicators shown on these pages with a † are described in Unilever's Basis of Preparation 2017 (PDF | 6MB) document.

Independently assured by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) LLP for 2015, 2016 and 2017

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