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Investing for a sustainable future

When it comes to energy savings, there's never a point at which we'd say “enough”. Not only do further efficiencies reduce our GHG impact, they can also reduce our business costs.

Man next to wind turbine and solar panel

In March 2014, Unilever issued a £250 million Green Sustainability Bond, inviting investors to support our vision for sustainable growth while investing in Unilever credit. The four-and-a-half year bond, due 19 December 2018, was a first for Unilever, the first green bond in the sterling market and also the first to be issued by an FMCG company. Proceeds are being used on projects linked to greenhouse gases, water and waste targets in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.

We worked with independent sustainability service provider DNV GL to develop a Green Sustainability Bond framework which provides clarity and transparency around the Environmental and Use of Proceeds criteria. Together these criteria meet the guidance given in the Green Bond Principles (comprising Voluntary Process Guidelines for Issuing Green Bonds dated 13 January 2014) that there should be a robust process and disclosure by an issuer to facilitate understanding of the characteristics of a bond by investors and others in this area.

Projects benefiting from proceeds of the Bond:

  • a new Home Care powders plant in China
  • a new laundry liquid plant in South Africa
  • a new Beauty & Personal Care and Home Care factory in Turkey
  • a factory extension at our spreads factory in USA
  • a HFC-free freezer cabinets programme which uses natural hydrocarbon refrigerants.

Always seeking further energy savings

When it comes to energy savings, there's never a point at which we'd say “enough”. Not only do further efficiencies reduce our GHG impact on the environment, but they often also reduce our business costs.

So we're still searching for efficiencies, despite the fact that since 2008 we've reduced CO2 emissions from our operations by 47% per tonne of production - and met the target we set in 2010 four years ahead of schedule. And since we set that target our ambitions have grown. In 2015 we announced our ambition of becoming carbon positive in our operations by 2030 - and energy efficiency and emissions reduction remain critically important.

We have a multi-faceted approach to cutting our energy use and reducing CO2 emissions across our manufacturing network.

This includes:

  • Taking a World Class Manufacturing (WCM) approach, which involves energy loss analysis and focusing on improvement projects, such as how we can use heat more efficiently to reduce our energy use.
  • Encouraging our people to adopt small actions such as ensuring lights and equipment are turned off when they are not in use.
  • Investing in our employees’ ideas to reduce GHG emissions through our global ‘Small Actions Big Difference fund’.
  • Replicating eco-efficiency projects, our ‘Proud Practice’ projects, in other factories.
  • Sharing best practice tips, such as lagging pipes to reduce heat loss, through ‘Simple Solutions’, our eco-efficiency awareness programme.
  • Running environmental workshops in factories with a large environmental footprint.
  • Investing in additional monitoring, metering and reporting of energy use at our sites to track performance and identify further opportunities to reduce energy use.
  • Ensuring that any equipment being replaced is of the highest eco-efficiency standard.

Over €490 million of cost avoidance

Reducing energy emissions isn’t just about reducing our environmental impact – 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, improvements in eco-efficiency have contributed to cumulative cost avoidance of around €493 million in energy.

Spotlight Spotlight

Unilever Brazil factory

Small action ideas to big difference reality

Our Small Actions Big Difference (SABD) fund helps turn the sustainable business ideas of our employees and factory teams into reality. Ideas are evaluated according to environmental benefit and financial return and we expand the best ideas to our factories around the world.

In 2017, we invested €43 million in energy, CO2 and water saving projects through our SABD fund. Together the projects will reduce our global CO2 emissions by 4.4%, global energy use by 3.8% and water use by 3.4%. The projects will achieve an average payback period of less than two years.

Our successful eco-efficiency projects are known as Proud Practices. We’ve found that a practice from one factory can often be easily replicated elsewhere. This helps speed up the delivery of environmental benefits and inspire new ideas.

Energy - Load per tonne of production (1995-2017)

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CO₂ from energy - Load per tonne of production (1995-2017)

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Sources of GHG emissions by type (2017)


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Our manufacturing sites use different sources of energy depending on their production processes and geographical location. The chart below shows our latest GHG emissions from energy sources used by our manufacturing sites, together with other site GHG emissions (refrigerant losses, effluent treatment and waste to landfill).

Note: The chart does not include GHG emissions from biogenic materials which are reported separately, in line with the internationally recognised Greenhouse Gas Protocol.

We did not measure the levels of three other major GHGs because Unilever’s emissions of these are negligible. These include: nitrous oxide, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride.

External recognition

The external recognition we received in 2017 shows that we are moving in the right direction, and this helps us identify further areas for improvement:

  • We achieved leadership of the Personal Products Sector in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), with a score of 89.
  • For the fourteenth consecutive year, CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) recognised our climate change performance. For the seventh consecutive year, we achieved a Band A performance rating and were listed in the 2017 Climate A List.

Independently assured by PwC

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