Unilever and peers mobilise a movement for change on waste

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The FINANCIAL — Following its recent achievement of sending zero waste to landfill across its entire factory network, Unilever has on June 11 brought together over 100 representatives from academia, NGOs and sector companies including Mars, GSK and Sainsbury’s to create a movement for change on zero waste.

Every year, an estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of solid waste is collected worldwide. This is expected to increase to 2.2 billion tonnes by 2025, with almost all of the increase from developing countries. So the need for action is clear, according to Unilever.

In January 2015, Unilever reached a significant milestone of sending zero non-hazardous waste to landfill across all global factories. Believed to be a first at this scale, more than 240 industrial sites in 67 countries making products for brands such as Magnum, Knorr, Dove and Domestos have now eliminated landfill waste.

The event today is an opportunity for Unilever to cascade its learnings but also to create an open discussion for what is next. Companies attending the event titled, ‘The zero waste mindset – new ways of thinking to deliver transformational change’, include Coca-Cola Enterprises, PwC, Sainsbury’s, Mars, and GSK. Speakers include Chief Supply Chain Officer at Unilever, Pier Luigi Sigismondi, mountaineer, Dave Bunting MBE, on the power of disruptive thinking and CEO of Holcim, Bernard Fontana, on the power of partnerships.

Chief Supply Chain Officer, Pier Luigi Sigismondi, said:

“The scale of the problem is clear and although we are very pleased with our achievement, we realise it is a drop in the ocean. The real change is yet to come. We know from our experience of delivering zero waste to landfill in our factories that we will not succeed in driving systematic change unless we can find ways to first of all personally connect with the issue and then commit to doing more and doing it quickly.”

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Some examples of Unilever’s collaborative approach on waste include:

Sonoco is one of Unilever’s key suppliers for bottles and provides a waste management service in North America. The relationship between the two companies includes exchanging best practices, such as waste avoidance and treatment methods for personal care, ice cream and spreads manufacturing sites, spanning different countries. The partnership means that waste is pushed up the hierarchy rather than converting waste to energy. Sonoco is also providing Unilever with innovation by providing reusable packaging for the Country Crock brand in the US.

Holcim, the global building materials company, uses waste from Unilever’s manufacturing process in its cement. The cement industry is responsible for six per cent of global CO2 emissions and has traditionally relied heavily on fossil fuels to generate electricity for their operations. Unilever now sends its residual waste which it can’t find a recycling route for to Holcim who use it as an alternative, and cleaner, fuel.

In Mangalore, India, the green team has created its own compost to grow vegetables like pumpkins, green chillies and lemons. The excess compost is used by the wider community and distributed to the local orphanage and homeless shelters.

Some of Unilever’s Partner to Win suppliers were also there to learn about zero waste. The Partner to Win programme, means that Unilever has gone from transactional to strategic relationships with suppliers to create long term business plans for growth.

 

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