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Reducing office impacts

We’re rethinking the design and management of our offices around the world to save energy and cut carbon.

Unilever office

Our four steps for cutting office energy

We have offices in 99 countries around the world. We use energy for heating, cooling, lighting, running our IT infrastructure. Globally, we have around 85,000 workstations and 5,500 servers. Energy consumption in our offices makes up less than 1% of our total greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint but there are still opportunities for us to reduce our impact, and we are working to reduce the GHG impacts of our operations.

We’re focusing on four areas:

  1. Design and construction standards: our office design standards ensure that new locations and fit-outs are both energy efficient and meet our sustainability requirements. All of our new offices must be certified to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) – the most widely used green building rating system in the world – and reach Silver level or higher.
  2. Local improvements: by optimising our heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, retrofitting our offices with low energy LED lighting and introducing automated lighting controls, we can make significant savings at the local level. We’ve created a global portfolio of energy saving and sustainability initiatives that can be implemented across our sites. We encourage employees to take actions like turning off equipment when not in use rather than leaving laptops in sleep mode.
  3. Collaboration: we work closely with our landlords, other businesses and non-profit organisations to share ideas and solutions for reducing office energy use and carbon emissions.
  4. Energy efficient equipment: we’re designing our data centres to use less energy, selecting more efficient devices and helping employees avoid unnecessary printing.

These improvements can help to make our offices better places to work too. For example, if we design our offices to maximise the use of natural light, it creates a more pleasant environment for colleagues while cutting the energy needed for lighting.

From data centres to devices: energy efficiency for all

Data centres, where the servers used by our IT systems are stored, are big energy users. With thousands of processes being run simultaneously, they require a lot of power and generate a lot of heat – so significant energy is used for cooling too.

Our two major global data centres – which are in the UK – host approximately 5,500 servers. Both centres are powered by electricity purchased from 100% renewable sources and wherever possible, we use fresh air from outside to cool the equipment. The centres have been designed with energy efficiency in mind. The modular structure of the centres means we can control the cooling needed for each area individually, rather than cooling the whole facility. This makes it easier to upgrade our technology too. In 2017, we reduced the total energy consumption of both data centres by 7%.

We’ve also installed our PC power management tool on more than 98% of our laptops and desktops, approximately 85,000 devices. This tool automatically shuts down inactive computers.

6,000,000 kWh

saved in 2017 – equivalent to the energy use of 1,800 average-sized UK homes – through shutting down inactive computers

Managing extreme heat impacts in China

When the temperature outside goes up, our energy use can rise too, as we crank up the air conditioning. 2017 was the hottest year on record for our Shanghai campus in China, but our site team took action to cut energy use and save money, achieving more than 20% year-on-year energy savings - despite the higher temperatures!

The first step was improving the building management systems – automated lighting, heating and air conditioning only came on when needed. The office cleaning system was also reorganised. Now whole floors are cleaned at the same time and shut down when the cleaners finish their work. The team also introduced a designated area on campus for employees working outside normal business hours. This means the rest of the building can be closed, saving yet more energy.

Creating agile working environments

Technology has transformed workplaces and practices – enabling many of us to enjoy more flexibility in how and where we work. We call this agile working and it has many benefits for our colleagues and our business.

Our design and construction standards help us create agile workplaces that meet our changing business needs while integrating sustainability and well-being criteria. Agile working can be good for employee well-being. Our research shows that it helps attract and retain talented people, and can improve productivity and collaboration.

Workplaces are designed with a range of non-assigned workstations and work settings to support different activities and encourage collaboration and productivity. As spaces are designed around activities, rather than individuals with fixed desks, it means we don’t need as much office space overall – cutting both our energy use and our costs.

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