Industrial Utility Efficiency

Unilever Manufacturing Impacts

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Lifecycle assessment shows that compared to other parts of our value chain, our manufacturing is not particularly energy-intensive. However, because of the scale of our business, we continue to focus our efforts on reducing our manufacturing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.


As part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan we have set ourselves the following targets:

  • By 2020 CO2 emissions from energy from our factories will be at or below 2008 levels despite significantly higher volumes. This represents a 63% reduction per tonne of production and a 43% absolute reduction (versus a 1995 baseline).
  • We will more than double our use of renewable energy to 40% of our total energy requirement by 2020.
  • All newly built factories will aim to have less than half the impact of current ones.

In 2010 we implemented Project Neutral, a site-by-site assessment to help our manufacturing operations meet our Sustainable Living Plan targets. These targets commit us to maintaining our 2008 levels of greenhouse gas, water and waste impacts against a backdrop of significant volume growth in our business.

This is a tough challenge. To achieve this, we built a detailed plan, reviewing the likely areas of volume growth from a geographic and product perspective. We also looked at the current environmental performance of all our sites. As a result we identified a number of ‘levers’ or areas of potential change which will deliver reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. We asked all our manufacturing sites to assess themselves against these levers, which showed us where the opportunities for reductions lie. Projects have been identified by individual sites which, when implemented, will further reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

Green Leaf

Performance in 2010

In 2010 we saw improvements in our two key performance measures expressed on a load per tonne basis: energy use (in gigajoules (GJ/tonne)) and CO2 from energy (in Kg CO2/tonne).

In 2010 we saw our energy use per tonne of production decrease by 1.0% compared to 2009. This represents a 42% reduction since 1995 (equivalent to a 45% reduction in absolute terms).

We have achieved a 44% reduction in CO2 from energy per tonne of production since 1995 (equivalent to a 47% reduction in absolute terms). In 2010 we reduced our CO2 from energy by 6.0% per tonne of production compared with 2009 (equivalent to a 1.6% reduction in absolute terms).

This data forms part of the eight environmental and two occupational safety performance indicators which have been independently assured by Deloitte LLP.


How are we making it happen?

Our aim is to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions at our sites around the world by a combination of improved energy efficiency, technology change and the use of renewable energy. We are convinced that the application of new technologies will allow for a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Energy from sun, wind, water, wood, pulp, straw residue and waste also offer a way of meeting the energy challenges of the future.

Here we provide a few examples of site-level activities.


Energy efficiency and new technology

At our Cali site in Colombia, Latin America, the installation of a boiler automation system resulted in an 8% reduction in our CO2 from energy.

At our Wall’s and Magnum ice cream factory in Gloucester, UK, we are reducing CO2 from energy by more than 3 000 tonnes a year following the installation of a combined heat and power (CHP) plant. The 2.4 megawatt plant is primarily fuelled by natural gas, with heat in the form of hot water and steam produced as a by-product. This heat is re-used in the manufacturing process.

In Europe we have combined heat and power plants operational in Caivano, Italy, and Heppenheim and Stavenhagen, Germany. These are more environmentally efficient than importing electricity from the national supplier because they fully utilise the waste steam and hot water from electrical power generation. So far, they have produced savings of 57 000 tonnes of CO2 emissions, equating to 9% of carbon emissions from our European operations.

Unilever’s factory in Tatura, Australia, received a government grant of €700 000 to construct a 1.1 megawatt co-generation plant, which generates both electricity and heat using natural gas and thermal energy. This cuts greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 44% while making Tatura self-sufficient in meeting its high energy demand.

We have used green plant design at our new aerosol manufacturing site in Mexico. This involved installing solar lighting and heating, water reuse and high-efficiency equipment. We are expecting a 25% reduction in CO2 from energy and a 40% reduction in water consumption per tonne of production compared to existing aerosol production sites.










August 2011