Unilever's sustainability program saves $395M since 2008

Unilever has cut more than 1 million tons of CO2 from its manufacturing and logistics operations since 2008, the company announced this week.

Manufacturing activities provided the bulk of the savings, shedding 838,000 tons of CO2, while improving the efficiency of its logistics operations helped Unilever cut emissions by a further 211,000 tons since its 2008 baseline.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a central target in Unilever's high-profile Sustainable Living Plan, which has introduced a raft of eco-efficiency programs that cut the company's operating costs by $395 million since 2008 -- a period over which the company also has grown sales by 26 percent from $54.4 billion to $67.6 billion.

The new measures include the widespread installation of combined heat and power (CHP) systems that have reduced CO2 from Unilever's European operations by 50,000 tons while cutting energy bills by $13 million, the deployment of biomass boilers and the creation of regional transport hubs that have served to slash the distances covered by the company's lorries.

John Maguire, Unilever's group manufacturing sustainability director, said tackling emissions posed challenges for the business, but also offered opportunities to make significant savings.

"Eco-efficiency isn't just about reducing the environmental footprint, it also makes good business sense," he said in a statement. "Since 2008 our eco-efficiency programs have avoided more than $395 million of costs -- almost $132 million in energy; $245 million in materials; $22 million in water; and $13 million in waste disposal. The benefits are very clear in a world where energy prices are increasing."

The 1 million tons of carbon savings is the latest in a series of milestones the company has announced in the past few months, including confirmation that 133 of its manufacturing sites now send zero non-hazardous waste to landfill and news that it is sustainably sourcing more than a third of its agricultural raw materials.

The milestones form part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, which is due to publish a more detailed update on the company's progress April 22.

This article originally appeared at Business Green and is reprinted with permission.

Unilever image by havankevin via Compfight cc.