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Our eco-efficiency performance

We continued to make good progress against our targets for CO2, energy, water and waste in manufacturing in 2018, reducing our environmental impact and saving money for the business.

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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.

Manufacturing performance summary and progress 2018

-52% CO2 emissions from energy per tonne of production
-44% water abstraction per tonne of production
-97% total waste sent for disposal per tonne of production
Over €600m of energy costs avoided via eco-efficiency since 2008
Key:
Achieved
On-plan
Off-plan
% 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.

Parameter2018 performance reduction since 2017 (%)2018 performance reduction since 2008 (%)
CO2 from energy (kg/tonne)8.252
Energy use (GJ/tonne)2.228
Total water abstracted (m3/tonne)7.244

 Independently assured by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) LLP

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 €105 million in water savings, €601 million in energy savings and around €234 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.

Parameter19952016201720182018 performance: Change compared to 2017 (%)Φ2018 performance: Change compared to 1995 (%)
Energy (GJ/tonne)2.921.341.301.27-2.2-56.6
CO2 from energy (kg/tonne)238.783.576.7770.46-8.2
-70.5
Total water (m3/tonne)7.951.851.801.67-7.2
-78.9
Total COD (kg/tonne)
3.941.171.130.96-14.6
-75.6
Disposed waste (kg/tonne)24.270.350.180.20+13.8
-99.2
Direct NOx emissions (tonne)
6,906
2,384
2,271
2,143
-5.6
-69.0

 Independently assured by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) LLP

Φ Numbers in this column are rounded. Percentage change therefore reflects underlying numbers, not the rounded values stated in this table.

Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) is our unit of measure for reporting. Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) may be measured where required for local regulatory compliance however, this is then converted to COD for reporting purposes.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) emissions

When we set up our Global Manufacturing Sustainability programme in 1995 we carefully considered materiality of potential environmental metrics and considered energy use, CO2 emissions, water abstraction, waste disposal and effluent discharge to be the most important. At that time, and during periodic reviews since, VOC emissions during product manufacturing have not been considered to be generally significant across our product categories. We carry out regular reviews to determine whether the metrics we measure remain relevant to Unilever’s operations, given the continuous evolution of our product mix and manufacturing processes.

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.

Year
Number of factory sites in UnileverNumber of prosecutions/finesTotal cost of fines (€)
2004374824,430
200534554,226
20063251643
200729519,718
20082841873
200927322,345
2010267110,500
2011268713,332
201227000
201325723,300
201425714,170,000^
2015261336,193
20162633374,653Δ
201727413,242ɵ
20182742103,321

^ 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, over 80% of our production volume was covered by the MM&T programme.

Scope of data 2018

Our data for 2018 covers our 274 manufacturing sites across the reporting period 1 October 2017 – 30 September 2018.

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.

Assurance of data

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

In 2018 PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) provided independent limited assurance (PDF | 418KB) of 12 environmental manufacturing indicators. PwC's work in 2018 included visiting a sample of ten manufacturing sites around the world, three 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 2018 (PDF | 578KB) document.

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