Reducing our non-manufacturing waste

Taking responsibility for the waste we produce also includes our non-manufacturing sites.

Driving zero non-manufacturing waste to landfill

By the end of December 2015, all of our in-scope* non-manufacturing sites in our top 21 countries in which we operate had either achieved zero non-hazardous waste to landfill or had plans in place.

Through our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, our non-manufacturing waste target is twofold: for at least 90% of our global non-manufacturing waste to be reused, recycled or recovered by 2015; and to send zero non-hazardous waste to landfill (ZWL) by 2017 at our 42 large (in-scope) sites in our top 21 countries.

By working with suppliers and throughout Unilever to share learnings, we are on track to achieve our 2017 target. As an example of this internal joint collaboration, we obtained ZWL in four countries: South Africa, Brazil, Russia and Turkey. By the end of 2015, 93% of non-hazardous waste was reused, recycled or recovered, and 29 of our in-scope sites were ZWL. Our in-scope European sites have been ZWL since early 2014.

We have extended the number of sites outside of our top 21 countries, and at the end of 2015 we achieved ZWL at an additional 44 sites. During 2016, we are planning to accelerate plans to achieve ZWL in other non-manufacturing sites.

Engaging our employees

To achieve our waste reduction targets, we are improving the environmental management of our operations. We are engaging with our office employees about waste-related issues, and encouraging them to undertake better waste segregation.

Halving our paper consumption

One example of how we have successfully engaged our employees is our paper reduction programme. We have more than halved the amount of paper we use compared to 2010. Paper consumption per occupant is now 55% lower than in 2010. This is well past our 2015 target of a 30% reduction at our top 42 global sites. However, we will continue to push consumption even lower.

Our Global Print Programme has played a critical role in minimising paper consumption. Reducing the number of print devices discourages printing, and all new devices have two-sided black and white printing set as the default.

In 2015, we continued to roll-out pull printing, which requires users to scan their personal pass card at the printer before being able to access their print job. This enables us to monitor individual user levels, dramatically reduces unnecessary printing, and improves confidentiality. We began pull-printing in 2014 and plan to complete roll-out to our top 42 global sites during 2016.

Our internal Business and Finance Services (BFS) provides support to our business through driving digitalisation in key processes such as our financial reporting, procurement, supply chain and sales. In 2010, we began digitalising these processes in order to improve efficiency and reduce waste. By the end of 2015, we processed 73% of in-scope BFS procedures electronically.

We are continuing to drive forward our global transformation programme towards our 2015 target of eliminating paper in our invoicing, goods receipt, purchase order processes, financial reporting and employee expense processing. We do this where legally allowable and technically possible, and aim to reach 100% in 2016.

Working in partnership with suppliers

We recognise the importance of working with our suppliers to reduce our office waste, such as working with suppliers to reuse or re-fill instead of recycling wherever possible. Circular economy thinking is embedded in our approach. We use closed-loop systems to collect and process waste, and then use the resulting energy to power waste collection vehicles.

We also have office site initiatives for reducing food waste under the WasteWatch initiative. During 2015, we rolled this out across 20 sites in eight countries and more than nine tonnes of food waste was avoided. We will continue to roll this out to an additional five sites in 2016, starting in the US.

Moving IT into the circular economy

We are committed to the European Union’s Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) Directive. Following on from our global standard mobile phone recycling process, which requires re-use or safe recycling of mobile devices, in 2015 we launched our Sustainable Circular IT Economy Project.

In partnership with a global IT equipment provider which we are in the process of selecting, we will transform our approach to how we recycle our equipment. This will help to create a new, long-term funding stream, which we will invest into Unilever Foundation and Global Partnerships programmes to increase our positive social impact. Our first fund is being used to develop a business case modelling tool to develop financially viable inclusive distribution models at scale while enhancing the livelihoods of women.

We began piloting our new model Shakti+ programme in Nigeria in 2015. By providing job opportunities and skills training, we help women in rural areas to earn an income and helping them and their families to enhance their livelihoods. Our Shakti+ programme, a development from our Shakti programme, aims to train women to become our door-to-door sales entrepreneurs in rural areas, and incorporates behavioural change programmes on nutrition and hygiene. We plan to continue funding this pilot in 2016 from the money generated by our Sustainable Circular IT Economy Project.

Looking ahead

Our aim is for other non-manufacturing sites outside of our USLP in-scope sites to achieve zero waste to landfill by the end of 2016. We also need to keep up momentum at those sites that have already achieved this status. We will continue to explore new technologies, ideas and partnerships to ensure that we continue to reduce the amount of waste we generate, and move towards a circular economy.

* In-scope sites are where we either own or hold the majority lease and as such are able to influence the handling of waste.

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