Unilever drives sustainable growth with new European logistics project

Unilever announced today a new project part-funded by the EU which will reduce the distance its trucks drive on Europe's roads by around 200 million kilometres annually by the end of 2014, compared to 2010 levels. Of this, around 23 million vehicle kilometres will be removed from UK roads.

The company's new transport management scheme will help to significantly reduce the impact that Unilever's supply chain has on the environment and Europe's roads network.

Under an agreement signed with the European Commission, a new network of transport hubs will be established across Europe and managed by Unilever’s existing operations centre in Katowice, Poland. The project will use cutting edge technology to maximise the load efficiency of the trucks in use.

The scheme is the largest project of its size and scope in the EU, and will make a significant contribution to the delivery of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), which has set out the company's ambition to double the size of its business while reducing its environmental impact.

As part of the USLP, Unilever has committed to ensuring that its CO2 emissions from its global logistics network will be at or below 2010 levels by 2020 - despite the significantly higher production volumes that will be generated as the company grows. This will represent a 40% improvement in CO2 efficiency.

It is estimated that by the end of 2014, the project will remove annually the equivalent of around 154,000 truck voyages between Brussels and Warsaw or more than 260,000 truck voyages between Berlin and Brussels, compared to 2010 levels. Traffic reduction should happen in almost all EU member states, with particular impact in highly congested areas.

Fewer trucks on the European roads network will also result in less carbon emissions. By the end of 2014, the project also expects to reduce the carbon emissions from our logistics network by around 15,000 tonnes of CO2 each year, compared to 2010 levels.

Jan Zijderveld, President of Unilever Europe, said: “This project is a major step forwards in the delivery of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. Reducing the number of kilometres that our trucks need to travel will result in a significant reduction in the environmental impact of our supply chain operations. But the business benefits of this initiative are equally important and they demonstrate, once again, the business case for driving sustainability into our business. 

Not only will this reduce our carbon emissions, but the long-term savings we will generate as a result of the reduced kilometres driven will help us become even more efficient and cost effective."

Unilever's logistics centre in Katowice will operate a network of regional hubs located across Europe. Each hub will be responsible for reducing the number of vehicle kilometres driven by ensuring that trucks are fuller as they travel across Europe from suppliers to factories and from factories to warehouses.

Marco Polo is the EU funding programme for logistic operators that are committed to the sustainable transport of goods across Europe. Between 2003 and 2009 over 500 firms received project funding. The second Marco Polo programme runs from 2007 to 2013 with an expanded budget and even greater ambition. Traffic avoidance is one of its key priorities.

In 2011, Unilever achieved an 8% improvement in the CO2 efficiency of its transport operations compared to 2010.

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