Unilever says waste is history for 50% of factories

Over half of Unilever’s factories sent no waste to landfill in 2012, the multinational has reported.

The world’s third largest consumer goods company, which produces cleaning products, food and beverages, also said factories in 18 countries sent zero waste to landfill.

It compares the achievement to removing more than one million household bins of waste every year.

In a statement Unilever’s Eco-Efficiency Manager Tony Dunnage stressed the company’s waste ambitions made financial and environmental sense.

“Having over 130 sites not sending waste to landfill equates to a cost saving of almost €70 million, all achieved without the need for capital expenditure,” he said.

While the waste management sector only contributes 3-5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, recycling raw materials has the potential to make major savings.

In 2009 the EPA estimated that 42% of total GHG emissions in the US were associated with the exploitation and management of materials, a figure that could be cut if the production ‘loop’ was closed.

Unilever aims to halve the greenhouse gas, water and waste impacts of its products across the lifecycle by 2020

Unilever is widely regarded as one of the world’s more environmentally progressive companies, recently receiving a commendation from KPMG for being a ‘sustainability sector leader’.

The company, which reported annual sales in 2012 of €51 billion – up from €40 billion – also says 252 factories across the world will not send any non-hazardous waste to landfill by the end of 2015.

It is currently two years into a decade-long Sustainable Living Plan, where it claims total waste sent for disposal in 2020 will be at or below 2008 levels – despite producing significantly higher volumes.

New factories are designed to produce 50% less waste than five years ago and will not send any non-hazardous waste to landfill.

The company’s CEO Paul Polman says he will use the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, taking place this week, to brainstorm sustainability concepts with Greenpeace and Oxfam.

“If just Unilever has achieved a sustainable business model…I won’t feel good,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

“We believe that what is good for society ultimately will be good for Unilever,” adding: “we have been blessed that the last three years have been good for Unilever.”

The company’s share price has risen 23% since the start of 2010, compared with 15% for rivals Proctor and Gamble.

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