Eco-efficiency performance overview

In 2015 we continued to make good progress towards achieving our targets for improved eco-efficiency in our manufacturing operations.

Summary of our performance

In 2015 we collected environmental performance data from 261 manufacturing sites.

For our four principal indicators, performance relative to our 2015 annual targets and the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) 2008 baseline is shown in the table below. All indicators are reported per tonne of production. For our other environmental manufacturing key performance indicators, our 2015 target was to achieve year-on-year improvement for each.

2015 performance versus annual targets

ParameterUnits2015 annual target reduction (% vs 2014)2015 actual reduction (% vs 2014)2015 actual reduction (% vs 2008 USLP baseline)
CO2 from energykg/tonne5.04.0
Total waterm3/tonne5.06.5
Disposed wastekg/tonne80.078

2015 performance versus USLP targets

In 2015, we again achieved significant reductions for each of our key performance indicators. Total water exceeded the annual target that we set, keeping us on track towards our longer-term goal. Reductions in energy, CO2 and disposed waste were slightly behind our stretching annual target. However, for disposed waste we are proud of achieving a reduction of 78% during the year.

Other highlights for our manufacturing eco-efficiency programme include:

  • In 2015, increasing renewable energy use to approximately 28% of our global energy portfolio, a significant achievement towards our 2030 target of 100%. (New target 2015)1
  • By the end of 2014, achieving zero non-hazardous waste to landfill for all of our manufacturing sites: over 240 sites in 67 countries across our global factory network.

By February 2016, through replicating our zero non-hazardous waste to landfill model in other parts of our business, nearly 400 additional non-manufacturing sites had also eliminated non-hazardous waste to landfill. During 2015 we also achieved significant progress towards our 2020 target for CO2 emissions from energy, water and waste sent for disposal to be at or below 2008 levels. In absolute terms, waste has been reduced by 97%, CO2 emissions by 36% and water abstracted by manufacturing sites by 34% – all achieved while increasing production volume.

Eco-efficiency delivers financial benefits

Our manufacturing performance recording systems now enable us to measure the financial benefits from our improvements in eco-efficiency.

We have used a number of cost effective investments to reduce our energy, water and waste. Initiatives range from encouraging people to adopt small actions that make a big difference cumulatively, such as ensuring lights are turned off, to larger investments such as biomass boilers.

Since 2008, we have reduced our environmental footprint whilst avoiding cumulative supply chain costs of over €600 million:

  • Water - around €50 million
  • Energy - around €330 million
  • Waste disposal - around €15 million
  • Materials - around €245 million

This clear financial benefit reinforces our view that sustainability is good for business.

Summary of our eco-efficiency performance

The table below summarises the key performance indicators that we have used to report our eco-efficiency performance for the past 20 years.

ParameterUnits199520132015% reduction 2015 performance vs. 2014 performance% reduction 2015 performance vs. 1995 baseline
CO2 from energykg/tonne238.798.988.5-4.0%-62.9%
Total waterm3/tonne7.952.121.88-6.5%-76.3%
Total COD*kg/tonne3.941.260.95-13.5%-75.9%
Disposed wastekg/tonne24.272.960.26-77.9%-98.9%

*COD: Chemical oxygen demand

You can find out more about our performance on each of these indicators in different parts of our website. CO2 from energy and energy use are covered in detail under Reducing emissions in our own operations. Water use is covered under Improving water efficiency in our factories, and waste under Towards a zero waste business.

Environmental prosecutions & 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, corporate head offices and research laboratories.

Environmental prosecutions & fines 2004-2015

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

^ Violation occurred in 2008.

How do we collect data?

Every month we collect data from each of our manufacturing sites using our web-based reporting system. This monitors key measures of environmental performance as well as qualitative measures of environmental management. Over the past 20 years we have continually improved the way we collect and report data.

Since 2007 we have focused on improving reporting of our energy use and CO2 emissions to allow better reporting of data on renewable energy, biogenic fuels and resulting CO2 emissions. This brings our reporting into line with the requirements of the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Protocol.

As a result of these improvements, eco-efficiency data for our main key performance indicators is now reported quarterly to our Supply Chain Leadership Team rather than at year end. This enables us to monitor our performance more closely and to act more quickly to make improvements and maintain progress against our targets.

During 2015, every manufacturing site also reported detailed utility cost data. This allows us to measure the financial benefits associated with our eco-efficiency programme, as well as to track trends in utility prices. We now include financial achievements as well as environmental benefits in our routine management reports.

Independently assured by PwC - see Independent assurance.

1 Our new target supersedes our previous target of sourcing 40% of our energy across our operations from renewable sources by 2020.

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