On 28 January, Unilever announced that it has achieved a key sustainability goal of sending zero non-hazardous waste to landfill from its global factory network.
Believed to be a world first for delivering zero waste on this scale, more than 240 factories in 67 countries have now eliminated landfill waste.
This achievement was announced at the same time as Unilever was awarded a Gold Class distinction for its excellent sustainability performance by RobecoSAM in their Sustainability Yearbook 2015(Link opens in a new window), based on our leadership of the Food Products industry in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index 2014.
The zero waste to landfill target forms a key element of Unilever’s sustainable growth ambitions.
PUTTING THE WASTE TO GOOD USE
Reducing waste at source remains the number one priority alongside finding innovative solutions for any remaining waste. For example, in Cote D’Ivoire, waste has been turned into low cost building materials; in India, organic waste is being composted and shared with the local community to grow vegetables; and in China, waste from Hefei, Unilever’s largest factory in Asia, is being used to make bricks and paving.
SOUND BUSINESS SENSE
Eliminating waste has avoided more than €200 million of cost and created hundreds of jobs. In Egypt, for example, the local team has launched a programme which gives disabled employees the opportunity to earn extra income by recycling waste material from production lines.
ZERO WASTE MINDSET
Unilever has a strong track record on designing out waste from factories and since 2012 – when zero waste to landfill was added as a Unilever Sustainable Living Plan target – the company has focused on embedding a ‘zero waste mindset’ to accelerate the global roll out programme and increase resource resilience.
REDUCE, REUSE, RECOVER, RECYCLE
To achieve zero waste to landfill, Unilever has adopted the four ‘R’ approach – reducing waste at source, then reusing, recovering or recycling any non-hazardous waste that remains. This has meant reconsideration of every aspect of the factory operation, from packing materials with deliveries to food waste from staff cafeterias.
SHARING OUR FRAMEWORK
Pier Luigi Sigismondi, Unilever’s Chief Supply Chain Officer, said: “Reaching this landmark is the result of a huge mindset shift throughout our organisation and a great example of Unilever driving sustainable business growth. Thousands of employees from across the business have developed some really innovative solutions to eliminating waste. I am incredibly proud of what we and our partners have achieved.
“However we cannot stop here. Our focus now is on becoming a zero waste company and working towards a zero waste value chain by encouraging our suppliers and customers to join us on this mission. We are also committed to developing an open source approach and sharing our ‘zero waste framework’ and experience with other organisations to drive global change and create a more sustainable future”.