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Unilever advances carbon reduction commitment at five UK & Ireland sites

One year after announcing its bold ambition to become carbon positive by 2030 1, Unilever has taken another significant step on its renewable energy journey, with the signing of a contract to use biomethane (also known as green gas/biogas) at five of its sites in the UK and Ireland.

Office Leatherhead

Unilever UK & Ireland has signed a deal with a renewable energy company GENeco, which means that from 1 January 2017, its offices in Leatherhead (Surrey) and 100 Victoria Embankment (London), and its food and drink factories in Norwich, Trafford Park and Cork, will use by 10,000 MWh of biomethane to power the sites’ heating and significantly reduce carbon emissions from the sites. With electricity already coming from certified renewable sources, the purchase of a certified supply of bioemethane means that Unilever has become carbon neutral [from energy sources] at these five sites.

The biomethane – which is fully traceable and certified – is generated by GENeco’s anaerobic digester in Avonmouth, which converts inedible food waste and sewage into energy.2

This new contract supports the overarching work that Unilever has already undertaken in cutting its greenhouse gas emissions: since the launch of the Sustainable Living Plan in 2010, the global fast moving consumer goods company has cut its manufacturing greenhouse gas footprint by 39% per tonne of production since 2008 – the equivalent of one million tonnes of CO2 per annum.

Charlotte Carroll, Sustainable Business Director, Unilever UK & Ireland, said, “In 2015, just as world leaders came together for COP 21 (the United Nations Climate Change Conference), our business committed to making our operations carbon positive by 2030. The ambitious target encouraged us to look carefully at our sites through a fresh, sustainability lens which helped to inspire our landmark agreement with GENeco today.

“With Biomethane or “green gas” still in its relative infancy compared to other forms of renewable energy, this agreement marks a significant step forward in helping us source 100% renewable energy for five of our UK and Ireland sites. Recognising that this is only the start of our journey, we hope to build on this great foundation and eventually convert waste from our own operations into energy to truly support a circular economy.”

GENeco has been carbon neutral and zero waste to landfill in its operations since 2013. Biomethane generated at its Bristol site is produced from household food and sewage waste; from here it can be injected into the national gas grid to power thousands of local homes, or used as vehicle fuel.

GENeco managing director Mohammed Saddiq said: “This deal marks a significant step change in the decarbonisation of UK industry and we are very pleased to be working with Unilever to help in their aims to become carbon positive.

“We believe that in order for the UK to meet the 2020 targets as defined in the Renewable Energy Directive, there will need to be an increasing role for biomethane in the UK’s heat networks.”

In late November 2015, Unilever outlined its ambition to become carbon positive, eliminating fossil fuels from its operations and directly supporting the generation of more renewable energy than it consumes. Through the ambition, which is part of the Sustainable Living Plan, Unilever will:

  • Source 100% of our total energy across our operations from renewable sources by 2030
  • Source all electricity purchased from the grid from renewable sources by 2020
  • Eliminate coal from its energy mix by 2020
  • Directly support the generation of more renewable energy than the company consumes and make the surplus available to the markets and communities in which it operates.
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