Cutting office impacts

We have set targets to minimise the environmental impacts of our offices and create a better workplace for our employees.

An office network that spans the globe

Energy consumption in our offices around the world is relatively small compared to our manufacturing operations. However, with an IT infrastructure that includes approximately 100,000 workstations and around 6,500 servers, our global office network is similar in size to an international bank or management consultancy.

“It is important that we take steps to reduce our office energy consumption,” explains Jenny Craig, Environmental Sustainability Lead, Information Technology. “By doing so, we not only lower our GHG emissions, but can also make significant cost savings, and minimise external risks to our business such as fluctuations in carbon pricing.”

Building momentum worldwide - through local initiatives

In 2015, we continued to benefit from local initiatives focused on heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), lighting and waste management. Delhi, Kolkata and Dubai were amongst the sites with new activities including investments in LED lighting, motion sensors and solar film for windows. All three sites reduced energy consumption whilst increasing office occupancy.

Investments made in 2014 produced positive results at a number of our sites during 2015. Most significant was the switch from oil to natural gas at our Colworth Science Park in the UK, a change that helped the site achieve a year on year reduction in energy consumption of over 4 million kWh.

To continue the momentum we will work with an external partner in 2016 to further develop local initiatives across our target sites. We will maintain our employee engagement efforts. These include our quarterly communication packs, which show energy and waste data for each site and highlight simple steps individuals can take to work towards our sustainability targets. For example, separating waste into the correct recycling receptacles, turning lights off and minimising printing.

Strategically choosing & consolidating sites

As important as local improvements are, there are limits to what can be achieved through system optimisation and employee engagement at each site. Since 2010, we have seen the greatest gains made by moving to new facilities and consolidating sites. In 2015 for example, employees in Paris and Trumbull, in the US, moved to new facilities that are smaller and more efficient. The benefit of reduced energy consumption at these facilities will be fully realised in 2016.

Our newly leased Greenstation site in France is a positive energy building. Energy consumption is compensated by the production of renewable energy through a 2,700 sqm of photovoltaic panel on the roof. The building uses 70% less energy than standard, which also means lower running costs. It is designed to favour natural light, minimising the need for artificial lighting and heating.

All windows have automated blinds to reduce the amount of energy used to cool the building, and rainwater is continually recycled – watering internal plants year-round, and outside plants in the summer. We closely monitor energy consumption and analyse areas for improvement each month.

Continually improving our data centres

It takes significant amounts of energy to power and cool our servers. So the design of our IT infrastructure can make an important contribution to energy saving. Our servers are housed at individual Unilever sites or clustered in dedicated facilities known as data centres.

Our two major global data centres are located in the UK. They are powered by electricity from 100% renewable sources, and are designed and built on a modular basis. This enables us to continually introduce refined technologies. The centres host approximately 4,500 servers. In 2015, their total energy consumption reduced by 5.3% whilst showing year-on-year increase in capacity and capability.

Data centres are heavily air conditioned due to the heat generated by thousands of computers. We have fine-tuned our cooling system by making a number of incremental changes. For example, increasing the supply air temperature to the IT equipment in line with operational standards and guidelines from ASHRAE, a global society advancing human well-being through sustainable technology for the built environment. This has enabled us to increase temperature whilst ensuring that equipment run as efficiently as possible.

During 2016, we will build on our success and review further innovations to continually improve the energy efficiency of our data centres.

Consolidating our IT infrastructure

Removing outdated and under-used applications and servers continues to be a high priority. So too is the replacement of older equipment with more energy efficient models. In 2015, we decommissioned 1,331 servers globally. In total, we have now decommissioned over 4,500 servers since 2008. In 2016, our focus will continue to be decommissioning and modernising our older servers.

Reducing the impact of personal computing & printing

Our PC power management tool automatically shuts down inactive computers. So far, it has been installed on approximately 86,000 laptops and desktops worldwide. It is estimated that in 2015 alone, shutting down inactive computers saved around 11,340,000 kWh. We have introduced a personal consumption monitor to show employees the energy savings from the new tool as well as their paper consumption from printing.

We continued our printer refresh programme in 2015 in Europe and Asia, reducing the number of printers by 40% at some sites. We are reviewing our current device-to-user target ratio of 1:20 after benchmarking with other major organisations and the achievement of 1:30 at some Unilever sites. Much of Europe will go through our refresh programme in 2016, which will see further reductions.

We are committed to The Green Grid. This is a collaborative organisation that aims to improve the resource efficiency of data centres and business computing ecosystems. All new desktops and laptops purchased or leased globally from 2011 onwards continue to meet the global silver or gold Energy Star standard.

We also have a number of global, outsourced print contracts. We ensure that we only lease machines that are energy efficient and that go into sleep mode when not in use.

Working with others

We work with others, whether they are landlords, other businesses or wider organisations, to share best practice, and advocate change where necessary.

Our customers are happy to work with us to lower their GHG impact because they recognise that by doing so, they can lower their costs, help the environment and respond to consumer preference.

European Code of Conduct

Unilever has been a participant of the European (EU) Code of Conduct for Energy Efficiency in Data Centres since February 2013. In 2013, our UK global data centres received the European Code of Conduct for Data Centres Award. This has been created in response to increasing energy consumption in data centres and the need to reduce the related environmental, economic and energy supply security impacts. The aim is to inform and stimulate data centre operators and owners to reduce energy consumption in a cost-effective manner without hampering the mission critical function of data centres.

In order to continue participation in this Code of Conduct there is an ongoing commitment to continue energy monitoring and implementation of best practice wherever possible. Experts from operators, vendors, consultants, academics, professional and national bodies contribute to and review the energy efficiency best practice standards. These are split into expected minimum standards and optional standards. All minimum standards must be applied in the Data Centre in order to maintain participation status and over time as the optional standards become more commonplace, they too become minimum standards.

Although this is currently a voluntary code, it will likely become mandatory in the future. Our Unilever Global Data Centres take a pro-active approach in order meet current and future standards.

Energy Efficiency in Buildings Manifesto

Buildings are a major contributor to climate change, since 40% of the world’s energy is used in them.

We are a member of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and signed its Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EEB) Manifesto in 2010.

Global businesses can set new standards of energy efficiency in buildings. This provides opportunities to cut operating costs, improve employee productivity and satisfaction, and enhance corporate reputation. For example, in 2015 our Greenstation office in France received BREEAM’s excellent certification.

Reducing GHG through agile working

We are saving energy through agile working and using our office space more efficiently. By designing our workplaces around activities, rather than around individuals in fixed spaces with desks, we are making more efficient use of our real estate. Agile Principles - such as open-plan workspaces, desk sharing, and using the technologies such as Video Presence and Skype to reduce travel – mean we reduce our energy and CO2 footprint. At the same time, these measures are enabling advanced mobility, improving collaboration and making cost savings.

Agile working means employees have greater control over when, where and how they work. This helps increase employees’ well-being, and our research shows helps us attract and retain the best talent to drive higher productivity.

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