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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Unilever's Latest Sustainability Efforts

Unilever, the large British/Dutch multinational company, is going all out when it comes to sustainability, including purchasing renewable energy. Unilever’s goal is to more than double its use of renewable energy to 40 percent of its total energy requirement by 2020. Last month, Unilever Canada announced its agreement with Bullfrog Power to purchase 59,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of renewable energy a year. The agreement includes powering all of Unilever Canada’s Ontario facilities and offices with renewable energy. The purchase agreement makes the company the “largest commercial purchaser of renewable energy in Canada,” according to according to Carbon49.com.

“When consumers think about our brands and the sustainability messages around our brand, we think they will look at us, congratulate us for taking a leadership role in this space, and reward us with purchases,” John Coyne, Vice President and General Counsel of Unilever Canada, told Carbon49. “That’s how we think our sustainability model will lead us to growth. So getting the word out to the consumers and to our business partners such as Walmart is a very important part of this strategy.”

“Almost all of our sustainability initiatives have actually resulted in win win win: our customers like us for doing the right thing, the environment likes us for running a sustainable business, and last but certainly not least, our shareholders like us because it reduces costs and increases profits,” Coyne said.

The purchase agreement with Bullfrog is part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, whose goal is to reduce the company’s environmental footprint of its products manufacture and use by 2020. The Plan includes greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions, water use reduction, waste reduction and sustainable sourcing.

GHG emissions
Unilever’s target goal is to reduce its products GHG emissions by 15 percent by 2012, and by 2020 to reduce carbon emissions to at or below 2008 levels by 2020, a 63 percent reduction per ton of production and a 43 percent absolute reduction.

Unilever’s goal is to reduce water abstraction by its factories to at or below 2008 levels, which represents a 78 percent reduction per ton of production and a 65 percent absolute reduction.

Unilever aims to reduce its packaging weight by a third by 2020. The company plans to increase its recycling and recovery rates on average by five percent by 2015, and 15 percent b y 2020 in all its top 14 countries. It will increase recycled material content in its packaging to maximum possible levels by 2020, and reduce total waste sent for disposal to at or below 2008 levels, which represents an 80 percent reduction per ton of production and a 70 percent absolute reduction. In addition, Unilever will eliminate PVC from all its packaging by 2012.

Sustainable sourcing
Unilever plans to source 100 percent of its agricultural raw materials sustainably by 2020, by easing into the goal with a 30 percent reduction by 2012, and a 50 percent reduction by 2015. To achieve the goal, Unilever will first focus on its top 10 agricultural raw material groups: palm oil, paper and board, soy, tea, fruits and vegetables, cocoa, sugar, sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, and dairy.

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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