Unilever highlights ‘good business sense’ of sustainability

By Caroline SCOTT-THOMAS contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Sustainability

It's not just about being eco-friendly...
It's not just about being eco-friendly...
Unilever has slashed €300m from its costs since 2008 due to sustainability initiatives, while also growing sales 26%, the company said as it unveiled a two-year progress report on its Sustainable Living Plan this week.

The company has cut more than one million tonnes of carbon dioxide from its operations in that time – equivalent to taking 250,000 cars off the road, according to Unilever. Manufacturing operations accounted for most of the CO2 savings, at 838,000 tonnes, while logistics accounted for a further 211,000 tonnes.

Measures introduced under the company’s Sustainable Living Plan​ include combined heat and power (CHP) plants in Europe, which have saved the company €10m and reduced CO2 by 50,000 tonnes. It says it intends to install CHP plants in Mexico and South Africa this year.

And it has also set up 30 cost-efficient biomass boilers worldwide, which supply more than 7% of the company’s renewable energy. Six more are planned for Latin America, Africa and Asia this year.

Eco-efficiency isn’t just about reducing the environmental footprint. It also makes good business sense,”​ saidUnilever’s group manufacturing sustainability director John Maguire.

“Since 2008 our eco-efficiency programs have avoided more than €300 million of costs – almost €100 million in energy; €186 million in materials; €17 million in water; and €10 million in waste disposal. The benefits are very clear in a world where energy prices are increasing.”

He added that Unilever’s primary focus is to reduce overall energy use by improving the eco-efficiency of its factories, offices and other operations – but financial return is also a part of the equation when choosing new technologies.

“We leverage our global scale by selecting ideas that have the best financial and eco-efficiency payback and then implement them globally,”​ he said. “We are also committed to ensuring as much as possible of the energy we use comes from sustainable sources, for example 100% of the electrical energy we buy in Europe and North America comes from renewable sources.”

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