Innovation for lower-carbon living
We’re innovating and redesigning our products to cut climate impacts from everyday products.
Sustainable innovation for sustainable growth
Innovation is essential to enable the transition to a low-carbon economy – and opening up the business opportunities this will bring.
We’re drawing on our expertise in innovation and R&D to bring people everyday products that have lower climate impacts – when they’re made and when they’re used. This is one of the ways we’re contributing to SDG 12, Responsible Consumption and Production.
Sustainable innovation and design are also vital to the growth of our business. According to our research, a third of consumers (33% of the 20,000 participants across five countries) choose to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good.
We have continued to see strong performance from our sustainable living brands – including Cif, Dirt is Good (Persil, Omo), and Seventh Generation – that have sustainability integrated into their brand purpose and products.
A lifecycle approach
The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan is anchored in the need to decouple our business growth from our environmental impact. This includes impacts from sourcing, making and distributing our products, and from their use and disposal by consumers.
We apply a lifecycle approach to identify where the biggest impacts lie and help us understand how we can reduce them. Our greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint is calculated using a footprint analysis of around 3,000 of our products across 14 key countries. We feed the results into an assessment of projects in our innovation process through our in-house EcoDesign tool to inform our R&D decisions.
All our innovation projects are assessed across a number of sustainability areas – including their GHG impacts and contribution towards our GHG targets within our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. Project scores are tracked and reviewed by senior management.
Don’t rebuy, refill – ecorefill
Climate change and waste are two of the biggest environmental challenges the world is facing. We’re working to tackle them by changing the way we source, make and distribute products. But consumption habits – how people use products at home – are just as important.
Launched in July 2019, the Cif Power & Shine ecorefill aims to tackle just this. The ecorefills attach to current Cif Power & Shine bottles. This means people can buy just one spray bottle and then use it for life. If the trigger breaks, we will deliver a new one free of charge.
The spray is ten times more concentrated than a standard Cif Power & Shine spray product. It’s designed to be diluted in people’s homes so 97% less water is transported. More products fit onto pallets and 87% fewer trucks are needed to distribute the products, cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
The ecorefill bottles use 75% less plastic than the 700 ml spray bottle. And – once the plastic sleeves are removed – the ecorefill is 100% recyclable after use.
This work contributes to the following UN Sustainable Development Goals
Clean and fresh with less
We’re working to reduce emissions at every stage of the product lifecycle. One of the ways we innovate is by formulating and packaging our products to reduce GHG emissions while maintaining performance. Our Home Care brands have a strong track record on this type of innovation – from concentrated liquid detergents and refill containers that reduce plastic waste to compacted, phosphate-free powders.
Through our eco-design programme, we are reformulating products to use fewer but higher performing ingredients. We’re taking this approach in both laundry powders and liquids to reduce the levels of conventional surfactant – our most GHG intensive class of ingredients – by up to 50%. Our phosphate reduction has reduced CO2 emissions by up to 50% per single use by consumers. We’re continuing to investigate technologies that could help us create more zero-phosphate products in the future.
Our concentrated liquid laundry detergents from brands such as Persil, Omo and Surf Small & Mighty and Seventh Generation’s ultra-concentrated EasyDose™ enable people to wash their clothes at lower temperatures and reduce GHG emissions by up to 50% per load. Our ultra-concentrated Comfort Intense fabric conditioner range requires less than half a regular dose. It has been available in the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands and France since 2015.
Concentrated detergents and fabric conditioners offer people more washes’ worth in smaller packs (both bottles and boxes). This means fewer raw materials are needed and more products can fit onto pallets for more efficient transport.
Seventh Generation’s EasyDose™ bottle is made with 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and the detergent is made with 50% less water compared with the same volume in the standard 100 oz detergent bottle for the same number of laundry loads. The smaller, lighter packaging – 75% lighter than the standard bottle – also means that more bottles can be packed onto each pallet, reducing GHG emissions and costs from transport.