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Unilever’s Aggressive Sustainability Practices Have Paid Off

New numbers released by the corporate giant show the incredibly cost-saving benefits of pursuing cleaner policies.

Unilever’s Aggressive Sustainability Practices Have Paid Off
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Mega-corporation Unilever, owner of everything from Ben and Jerry’s ice cream to Dove soap, announced that it has managed to make massive cuts to its carbon emissions while shaving millions off its operating budget.

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According to Business Green:

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

The new measures include the widespread installation of combined heat and power systems that have reduced CO2 from Unilever’s European operations by 50,000 tonnes while cutting energy bills by €10m, 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.

The company’s sustainability director for manufacturing, John Maguire, echoed the sentiment that sustainability can be a force for cost-saving, as opposed to an added new cost. He said in a statement: “Eco-efficiency isn’t just about reducing the environmental footprint it also makes good business sense … Since 2008 our eco-efficiency programmes have avoided more than €300m of costs–almost €100m in energy; €186m in materials; €17m in water; and €10m in waste disposal. The benefits are very clear in a world where energy prices are increasing.”

In a report released last week, the company described how brands that “have made sustainability central to their brand proposition or product innovation have accelerated sales during 2012,” including one of its laundry detergents. By 2020, the company plans to “halve the environmental footprint of its products across the value chain” and source all of its agricultural raw materials from sustainable sources. (Currently, one-third of its products come from sustainable sources.)

The company’s progress thus far is a potent reminder that big companies can often find business incentives–like savings on energy costs–to pollute less.

About the author

Zak Stone is a Los Angeles-based writer and a contributing editor of Playboy Digital. His writing has appeared in TheAtlantic.com, NYMag.com, Los Angeles, The Utne Reader, GOOD, and elsewhere. Visit his personal website here.

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