Greenhouse gases

Our greenhouse gas impact per consumer use has reduced by around 6% since 2010*

Our commitment

Halve the greenhouse gas impact of our products across the lifecycles by 2020.

Our Performance

Our greenhouse gas impact per consumer use has reduced by around 6% since 2010.*

What matters most

For the Greenhouse Gases commitment we have two targets that are most material to us: Reduce GHG from skin cleansing and hair washing and Reduce GHG from washing clothes: concentration, reformulation and consumer behaviour. (M) indicates our most material targets.

  • achieved: 2
  • on-plan: 8
  • off-plan: 1
  • %of target achieved: 0

Our perspective

Climate change is accelerating and the effects are being felt across the world. It has a significant impact on our business. The sourcing of our agricultural raw materials will be affected by changes in weather patterns; our business and our consumers will be affected by increases in energy and food prices and extreme weather events will displace communities.

Being proactive on climate change is essential to ensuring we remain a viable business in the future. We also reap the benefits through innovation, new product development and cost efficiencies. For example, our new dry shampoos do not need hot water when used and in 2012 grew by over 19% in sales. And we have avoided €99 million in costs since 2008 by improving energy use in our factories.

Helping to tackle climate change

We are making progress towards our commitment. The greenhouse gas footprint of the making and use of our products has reduced by around 6% per consumer use since 2010.*

We have made particularly good progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport and manufacturing by increasing efficiency and using more renewable energy.

Our biggest challenge however, remains reducing the hot water used with our soaps, shower gels and shampoos. To achieve our goal we need to provide consumers with more products and tools which motivate them to use less water. But material change will require wide-scale decarbonising of energy grids, effective carbon pricing and courageous government policies.

Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from skin cleansing and hair washing (M)

  • By 2015 we aim to reach 200 million consumers with products and tools that will help them to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions while washing and showering. Our plan is to reach 400 million people by 2020.
  • While we have made some limited progress, overall this target remains challenging.

More on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from skin cleansing and hair washing

Our perspective

The greatest greenhouse gas impact of our shampoos, shower gels and soaps occurs when they are used by consumers with heated water. During 2012 we continued to explore a range of approaches to help us understand consumer behaviour to influence their showering and bathing habits. These included: the roll-out of dry shampoo under many brands such as Dove, Suave and TRESemmé; a promotional offer of a free aerator with Radox shower gel in South Africa; and crowd sourcing fresh ideas on how to encourage consumers to reduce heated water in the shower.

We estimate that compared to washing hair with heated water, using a dry shampoo reduces CO2 by around 90%. The dry shampoo market is still quite new and the number of users is relatively low; however quantitative consumer panel data from the US shows that for those who bought a dry shampoo, it replaced a wet wash in 60% of uses. This suggests dry shampoo is a potential way to reduce heated water in the shower by offering a motivating beauty benefit which leads to a sustainable behaviour.

Dry shampoo sales grow 19%

Tresemme dry shampoo pack shotOur dry shampoos allow women to refresh hair between washes, saving time and extending their style. They may also encourage people to wash their hair with hot water less often.

We have now rolled out our dry shampoos to ten countries under nine brands, including TRESemmé, Suave, TiGi and VO5. Sales grew by over 19% in 2012. We are the market leader in the US with 75% share and in 2012 launched the product under the Dove brand.

Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from washing clothes (M)

Reduce the greenhouse gas impact of the laundry process by:

  • Concentrating our liquids and compacting our powders.
  • Reformulating our products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2012.
  • Encouraging our consumers to wash at lower temperatures and at the correct dosage in 70% of machine washes by 2020.
  • 14% of our portfolio in our top 14 countries was made up of concentrated and compacted products at end 2012, compared to our baseline of 4% in 2008.
  • Over 95% (by volume) of our laundry powders in our top 14 countries have been reformulated, achieving a reduction of 15% in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • We communicate the benefits of low-temperature washing on our packs and online and are encouraging our consumers to use the right dosage.

More on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from washing clothes

Our perspective

Liquid laundry detergents are popular with consumers and in 2012 we were the market leader in emerging markets, with market share of over 25%. The majority of our liquid detergents are now sold in concentrated form.

Concentrating our laundry products helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and is good for our business – great performance combined with lower material and transport costs.

However, it can take time for consumers to switch to concentrated or compacted products and use the right dosage. Some consumers continue to use larger doses than needed, while others under-dose.

By designing our products differently, we can cut out these variations. One example is concentrated laundry capsules, which we are promoting in Europe as they ensure consumers use an accurate dose.

Reducing our greenhouse gas impact

We have worked hard to reformulate our products by replacing ingredients that have a high greenhouse gas impact with those with lower impacts. These can reduce greenhouse gas impact by up to a third.

We have had some success with helping people to adopt different habits. We are working with the International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products (AISE) to encourage people to wash at lower temperatures.

† Independently assured by PwC

Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our manufacturing

  • By 2020 CO2 emissions from energy from our factories will be at or below 2008 levels despite significantly higher volumes.

    This represents a reduction of around 40% per tonne of production.

    Versus a 1995 baseline, this represents a 63% reduction per tonne of Production and a 43% absolute reduction.

  • We will more than double our use of renewable energy to 40% of our total energy requirement by 2020. We recognise that this is only a first step towards a long-term goal of 100% renewable energy.
  • All newly built factories will aim to have less than half the impact of those in our 2008 baseline.
  • 838,000 fewer tonnes of CO2 from energy produced in 2012 than in 2008 (a reduction of 31.5% per tonne of production).

    Compared to 1995, this represents a 60% reduction in absolute terms.

  • At end 2012 renewable energy contributed 26.3% of our total energy use compared to 15.8% in 2008.
  • Seven new factories were specified in 2012 for opening in 2013. Their eco-efficient design aims to abstract 50% less water per tonne of production than the 2008 baseline.

More on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from our manufacturing

Our perspective

Inside of a Unilever factoryWe continued to make progress in reducing CO2 in 2012, adding to savings since our 2008 baseline, which are now equivalent to taking around 200,000 cars off the road. We have also made good progress in increasing the energy from renewable sources at our manufacturing sites. All our sites in the US now purchase electricity from certified renewable sources, as well as those in Europe and Canada.

However, in some cases the cost of renewable energy is high compared to energy from non-renewable fuels. We continue to evaluate cost-effective and scalable renewable technologies that will contribute to our global target.

Our new factories now have sustainability built into their core designs. In addition to eco-efficient design of production processes, we are using certification systems such as LEED and BREEAM environmental assessment methods and rating systems for buildings. Our seven new factories in 2013 will achieve a rating of LEED Silver or above.

Reducing GHG through Biomass

In 2012 we commissioned a new biomass boiler at our Pouso Alegre site in Brazil which produces our AdeS and Knorr products. This burns recycled wood rather than oil and will reduce emissions by around 80%.

We are now using bio-energy at 30 of our 252 manufacturing sites, providing around 7% of the energy we use. This reduces our annual emissions from fossil fuels by over 150,000 tonnes of CO2. We are planning to install additional boilers at sites in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Over €300 million cost avoided

Since 2008, our manufacturing eco-efficiency programme has used a number of cost-effective investments to reduce our energy, water and waste. Initiatives range from encouraging people to adopt small actions that make a big difference cumulatively, such as ensuring lights are turned off, to larger investments such as biomass boilers. We have reduced our environmental footprint while avoiding cumulative supply chain costs of over €300 million: 

  • Water - €17 million

  • Energy - €99 million

  • Waste disposal - €10 million

  • Materials - €186 million

† Independently assured by PwC

Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport

  • By 2020, CO₂ emissions from our global logistics network will be at or below 2010 levels despite significantly higher volumes. This will represent a 40% improvement in CO₂ efficiency. We will achieve this by reducing truck mileage; using lower emission vehicles; employing alternative transport such as rail or ship; and improving the energy efficiency of our warehouses.
  • 10% improvement in CO₂ efficiency since 2010. 7% improvement in CO₂ efficiency and a 7% reduction in absolute terms in 2012 compared to 2011*.

More on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport

Our perspective

To get our products from our factories to the market, we transport our goods over 1.5 billion km each year – the equivalent of travelling to the moon and back more than 2,000 times.

We are leveraging this scale by creating regional distribution hubs which will improve operational efficiency significantly.

To reach our 2020 target we need to collaborate with external partners as we do not own the trucks, trains and ships that we use. We are making sustainability part of our working agreements with infrastructure providers and operators.

Transport network saves carbon & road miles

As part of our UltraLogistik transport network, we are creating regional distribution hubs. These will improve operational efficiency significantly and reduce total distance travelled by 175 million km in Europe alone from 2013 to 2015 (compared to 2010). These hubs are part-funded by the EU’s programme for logistics operators who are committed to the sustainable transport of goods across Europe.

We will have 12 hubs in Europe by 2014. Each is responsible for ensuring that trucks are more fully loaded as they travel across Europe, which will reduce CO2 emissions by nearly 16,000 tonnes over 2010-14. Making our logistics more efficient delivers real business benefits including reduced costs, better business planning and improved service.

Lorry backing into and UltraLogistik transport hubUltraLogistik saves €50 million

Our UltraLogistik control tower organisation enables us to co-ordinate our transport activities efficiently. We established a tower in Poland in 2007 which has saved more than €50 million in costs over 2008-12. We now have towers in other regions and will continue with more in 2013.

*Cumulative improvement since 2010 is measured across our top 14 countries; annual improvement is measured in more than 50 countries.

Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from refrigeration

As the world’s largest producer of ice cream, we will accelerate our roll-out of freezer cabinets that use climate-friendly (hydrocarbon) refrigerants. When we launched our Plan in November 2010 we had already purchased 450,000 units with the new refrigerant.

  • We will purchase a further 850,000 units by 2015.
  • Around 332,000 climate-friendly freezers purchased in 2012, taking us to over 800,000 of our target of 850,000.

More on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from refrigeration

Our perspective

Our climate-friendly hydrocarbon (HC) freezers have a negligible global warming potential compared to those that contain hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). They are also around 10% more energy efficient.

In addition to buying freezers with climate-friendly refrigerants, we have been pioneering new models using state-of-the-art components to increase their energy efficiency.

Over 2010-12 we purchased around 290,000 of these more energy-efficient freezers.

We estimate that the energy efficiency of the freezers we bought in 2012 avoided around 40,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions compared to 2008 models. We are working with industry to promote the move to more environmentally friendly freezers. We are driving an industry commitment to phase out HFCs by 2015 through our participation in the Consumer Goods Forum and as the chair of Refrigerants, Naturally!

Climate-friendly freezers grow sales & cut costs

In Denmark our greener freezers have helped us win new business. We agreed new partnerships with Fakta discount stores in 2009 and OK Plus petrol chain in 2011, which are part of the retailer COOP. Prior to this Unilever had very little business with either company. A key factor was our ability to demonstrate that our climate-friendly freezers generate lower CO2 emissions and use less energy, delivering better energy efficiency for our customers.

We have achieved excellent growth with both each year since then.

Reduce energy consumption in our offices

  • By 2020 we will halve the energy (kWh) purchased per occupant for the offices in our top 21 countries versus 2010.
  • 11% reduction in energy (kWh) purchased per occupant since 2010.

More on reducing energy consumption in our offices

Our perspective

In 2012 we continued to focus on making improvements to our IT systems to reduce energy use in our offices. Since 2011, all new personal computers are silver or gold Energy Star rated and all servers in our data centres are gold Energy Star rated. In our data centres, we are consolidating the number of servers in the US, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Turkey; we have decommissioned over 3,200 servers since 2008.

We have started to roll out a PC power management platform which is expected to reduce PC power consumption by a minimum of 20%. In 2013, we will introduce a personal consumption monitor to show employees their energy savings and paper use.

We are using our buildings more efficiently by increasing the average occupancy density and optimising lighting, heating and cooling systems. We have developed a toolkit which helps sites take small actions to reduce the energy they use.

Reduce employee travel

  • We are investing in advanced video conferencing facilities to make communication easier while reducing travel for our employees. By 2011 this network will cover more than 30 countries.
  • 54 countries were covered by end 2011.

More on reducing employee travel

Our Perspective

We exceeded our 2011 target. Through the use of telepresence in 26 counties we eliminated the need for around 14,500 short-haul flights and over 23,500 longhaul flights. This delivered clear business benefits with an estimated saving of almost €40 million in costs and 113,500 tonnes in CO2 emissions. We continue to promote more flexible ‘agile working’ to lessen the burden of travel for our employees and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"We are seeking innovations to help people reduce their greenhouse gas impacts."

Future challenges

Our greatest greenhouse gas impact comes from the heated water people need when they take a shower with our soaps, shower gels and shampoos – especially in the US. Finding ways to reduce this is crucial if we are to meet our goal to halve the greenhouse gas emissions of our products across the lifecycle.

We are finding this very difficult and have only made limited headway. We have made a start by understanding people’s showering habits. In 2011 we reported on showering research in the UK. We have followed up with a similar study in Australia.

Given the barriers to change, we are experimenting with products like dry shampoo, with offers such as free shower aerators from Radox shower gel – which can save consumers up to €450 a year and with competitions to open source innovative ideas.

A big part of our footprint today is in the US. But as people in the fast-growing markets of Asia and Africa start to acquire washing machines and showers the task becomes even more difficult. Our challenge will be to ensure that people continue to wash their clothes at low temperatures when they get a washing machine.

We do not yet have viable solutions and we will continue to seek innovations which will help people reduce their impacts. But large-scale change will only come about if carbon has an economic price and if governments put the right frameworks in place. So we continue to advocate ambitious public policy to address climate change and to incentivise the transition to a low-carbon economy.