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Driving action on climate change and reducing our impact

Greenhouse gases
Ben and Jerry's climate action Ben Jerry Climate Change Food waste

Unilever is globally committed to playing a leading role in the transition to a low carbon economy. As one of the world’s leading suppliers of Foods & Refreshment and Home and Personal Care, our products are available in over 190 countries and reach 2.5 billion consumers a day. Locally, we employ more than 1,300 people, with offices and manufacturing facilities in Australia and an office in New Zealand.

Unilever has more than 400 brands found in homes around the world. In Australia and New Zealand, Unilever brands include Lipton, Dove, Rexona, Lynx, Vaseline, OMO/Persil, Surf, Continental, Toni&Guy, Choysa, Ben & Jerry’s and Streets.

The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP) underpins our global strategy and sets out to decouple our growth from our environmental footprint, while increasing our positive social impact. We want to use our scale as a force for good.

Tackling climate change requires transformational changes to the broader systems in which we operate. For this we need strong government policy that creates the right context for change and business action. It’s critical that organisations from all sectors work in collaboration, partnering on projects and initiatives to take action.

“Kiwis want to see change in the way we care for our environment and make purchasing decisions based on businesses with sustainability and the environment in mind.” – Nick Bangs, Managing Director, Unilever New Zealand.

Our commitment to the Paris Agreement

Young people walking past environmental poster

We’re advocating for policies that advance the goal of the Paris Agreement. That is, limiting global temperature rises to no more than 2 degrees, and ideally 1.5 degrees, by the end of the century.

We’re doing this through ambitious targets within our own operations and working in partnership with others to scale up action around the world through multiple private sector groups and coalitions. Nothing is more powerful than demonstrating to governments that accelerated progress in decarbonising the economy is actually possible. That is why in the lead up to COP21, we announced our carbon positive targets in 2015 ahead of the Paris Agreement, building on our 20 year track record of cutting our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Science-based targets focus purely on greenhouse gas emission reduction and are informed by independent climate science. These transparent targets ensure a company’s emissions are in line with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, reached in 2015 when 195 of the world’s governments committed to prevent the worst effects of catastrophic climate change by limiting average global temperature increases this century to well below two degrees Celsius.

At Unilever, we have an approved science-based target to reduce our Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions (those from our direct operations such as manufacturing and offices, and from the energy we use) by 100% by 2030, compared to our 2015 figures.

We also have a target in place to halve the greenhouse gas impact of our products across their lifecycle – including Scope 3 emissions (from suppliers and consumers) – by 2030, compared to our 2010 figures.

These targets set the basis and guiding principles for all climate action strategy at Unilever. All our brands are covered by our overall targets, and some have also set themselves individual science-based targets that go beyond our overarching goals, such as Ben & Jerry’s, Seventh Generation and Pukka.

Leading by example – our carbon positive ambition

Hands under running tap

In addition to our policy engagement and advocacy efforts, we are taking strong action to decouple our growth from our impact and demonstrate that decarbonisation of the economy is both possible and makes good business sense.

We have started this journey in Australia and New Zealand and have developed a renewable energy strategy outlining our roadmap for meeting this ambition.

Specifically, Unilever is committed to decreasing the environmental impact throughout our range of products through water use, waste and packaging, sustainable sourcing and greenhouse gases by:

  • Sourcing all electricity purchased from the grid from renewable sources by 2020
  • Sourcing 100% of energy across all operations from renewable sources by 2030
  • Eliminating coal from our energy mix by 2020
  • Directly supporting the generation of more renewable energy than we consume, making the surplus available to the markets and communities where we operate by 2030.

In 2016, we proudly took out the Business Leadership category at the NSW Department of Environment and Heritage Green Globe Awards which recognise businesses that have fully integrated environmental management and sustainable practices into all aspects of their strategy and operations in Australia.

Partnering for the goals

Lynsey Forrest holding a bottle of Omo Eco Active

Globally Unilever was the first FMCG organisation to join The Climate Group’s EV100 global initiative, which aims to transition to electric vehicles by 2030 and in New Zealand a portion of our vehicles are already electric. This is contributing to the 10,000 vehicles across New Zealand that are now electric and no longer reliant on petrol.

In 2014, Unilever was a founding signatory of the RE100 global campaign for influential businesses to commit to using 100% renewable electricity and in October 2018, we joined 31 major corporates at the first Australian meeting of the RE100.

In New Zealand, Unilever is a signatory of the Climate Leaders Coalition which aims to help New Zealand transition to a low emissions economy and create a positive future for New Zealanders, business and the economy.

We also continue to work with organisations and initiatives such as, Sustainable Business Australia, Sustainability Advantage, Take 2, 350.org and Generation Yes to help drive alignment, scale and momentum in both the private sector’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and Australia’s role in achieving the 2015 Paris Climate Conference Agreement to keep global warming below 2C.

Making tangible impact

As a business, Unilever is committed to shifting to a more renewable future, contributing positively to reducing the GHG impact of our products.

  • In 2017, Unilever met 33.6% of its global energy needs from renewable sources.
  • As of 2017, 109 of Unilever’s manufacturing sites across 36 countries are using 100% renewable grid electricity
  • This accounts for 65% of our total grid electricity consumption and includes manufacturing sites across all continents.
  • By the end of 2016, we had cut CO2 emissions by 43% per tonne of production
  • In 2017, we went further, cutting CO2 emissions by 47% per tonne of production.

Bottling up environmental savings

Our Lipton Ice Tea blow-filling process has helped us to lower our greenhouse gas emissions, reduce waste and lower transportation costs in Australia & New Zealand. The installation of an in-line bottle blowing facility at our factory in Tatura means we are able to purchase pre-form containers, which take up less space to transport, resulting in 1,200 less truck journeys each year. Our re-designed manufacturing process and energy recovery systems save over 1,300 tonnes of GHG’s annually and lightweight bottles and caps reduce 93 tonnes of plastic being used each year.

In July, we announced a landmark move to introduce Australian sourced post-consumer recycled plastic for bottles of locally made and well-known Home and Personal Care brands such as OMO, Dove, Surf, Sunsilk and TRESemmé. Unilever will introduce at least 25% recycled plastic into bottles for key brands and go further wherever technically possible. This will create an end market and new life for approximately 750 tonnes of recycled plastic per year, helping to avoid this same amount of virgin plastic being made new from fossil fuels each year.

Clive Stiff, CEO Unilever Australia & New Zealand said: “We want to give Australians and Kiwis confidence that for each bottle of OMO, Persil, Dove, Sunsilk, Surf or TRESemmé they buy, they are giving a new lease on life to the plastic. In short, this move diverts plastic away from landfill.”

If it’s melted, it’s ruined!

Scientists agree that to prevent our environment from altering drastically, we need to stop average global temperatures from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius. This means that to avoid devastating impacts to our planet, we need to make sure that 80% of current fossil fuel reserves remain in the ground.

In 2017, Ben and Jerry’s joined forces with climate advocacy group 350.org Australia on the #STOPADANI roadshow to raise awareness of and stop what would be the biggest coal mine in Australia’s history. The #STOPADANI campaign successfully stalled the proposed Adani Mine in Queensland with potential environmental ramifications of an estimated 4.7 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

This year, Ben & Jerry’s again joined 350.org Australia on the Accelerate Tour giving Australians the opportunity to learn more about why fossil fuel divestment will make such an impact on tackling climate change and how to take direct action by targeting institutions and lobbying them to divest. It aimed to inspire people to unite and lead their local government authority to build a fossil-free community.

Reducing greenhouse gases from manufacturing

In 2017, we reduced CO2 emissions per tonne of production in Australia by a further 13% compared to 2016 and 30% compared to our 2008 baseline. We achieved this through improving our manufacturing practices, streamlining processes and investing in new and more efficient technologies.

At our factory in Tatura, Victoria, we installed Environment Guard insulation covers in our roof and new valves in our boiler room to help save gas and reduce heat loss, as well as automatic controls for lighting & HVAC in our wet foods plant. These improvements have delivered an equivalent of 450 tonnes of CO2 savings per year. We’ve also saved 1,300 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually through our blowfill line, with further projects in the pipeline.

Our Minto site in NSW has also implemented energy-saving initiatives including optimising the central heating ventilation and air-conditioning system, and overhauling air compressor motors.

Kelvin Ritchie, Environment Coordinator Unilever Australia and New Zealand, explains how our people are leading the charge to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

“At Unilever, our dedicated teams acknowledge the need to minimise impacts on the environment and prevent climate change. We also understand that manufacturing efficiency and sustainability go hand in hand. Our focus on the ambitions of the USLP and the range of sustainability projects we implement each year best demonstrate our commitment to the environment.”

Helping our customers refrigerate efficiently

Since 2010, we’ve replaced more than 18,834 Streets ice cream freezers across Australia & New Zealand with new models that use hydrocarbon refrigerant (R290). Our new, more climate-friendly freezers not only emit less CO2 but are also more economical to run.

We continue to help our network of convenience stores, petrol outlets and corner shops reduce the environmental impact of our freezers through our Streets Freezer Care Program.

Patrick Kerr, Customer Development Director shares how reducing the environmental impact of our freezers is a win-win for our customers and our planet.

“Reducing our environmental footprint and delivering sustainable growth is as much about rolling out natural refrigerant technology as it is about ensuring our customers use and care for our freezers in the right way to maximise the environmental savings and longevity of each cabinet. Our Streets Freezer Care Program features helpful tips and advice to help our customers run their freezers more efficiently, reduce their energy use which ultimately saves them money.”

Reducing energy consumption in our offices

In 2014 we split our Australian head office across two sites, a new Sydney CBD site and a refurbished North Rocks facility. As a result, we have reduced electricity consumption in our offices through the installation of timer-controlled sensor lighting and air conditioning in all our meeting rooms.

The building where our CBD site is located has been awarded 4.5 out of 5 stars for energy under the National Australian Built Environment Ratings System (NABERS) criteria, reducing our energy use by 64% compared to our previous location. Our Auckland office has recently undergone an update resulting in additional environmental savings that will be traceable in the coming months.

We continue to work on reducing the environmental footprint of our Australian and New Zealand offices in different ways including undertaking an audit of IT server rooms to maximise the energy efficiency of cooling equipment.

In Australia and New Zealand, we also embrace flexible working policies which allow us to downsize the footprint of our workspaces and reduce our environmental impact by using technologies such as cloud computing, video presence and Skype for Business, which reduce travel and therefore the CO2 footprint. Across ANZ, Unilever has declared all roles flexible, allowing our people remote access to the business.

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