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Unilever reaches “zero waste” factory milestone

Unilever has announced that all of its European factories have achieved zero non-hazardous waste to landfill status, meaning that more than three quarters of the company’s global factory network no longer sends such waste to landfill.

The company said the milestone, which sees Europe join North America in having only factories that have achieved “zero waste” status, had been achieved with minimal capital expenditure and had reduced disposal costs by more than €17m.

It added that Unilever’s next Sustainable Living Report, which is due to be published later this month, will show that the proportion of factories to have complied with “zero waste” standards has risen from 20 per cent to over 75 per cent in three years, while total waste sent for disposal has fallen 66 per cent per tonne of production since 2008.

Pier Luigi Sigismondi, Unilever chief supply chain officer, said the company had achieved “a rapid acceleration in converting the network to zero waste”.

“In 2010, 52 sites were there,” he said. “We have now reached 200 sites. We are on track to hit our revised target of 100 per cent of sites by 2015, five years ahead of the original 2020 target. I am proud of the team effort which has got us to this milestone.”

He added that the transformation had been achieved through a two-pronged approach whereby the company focused on reducing waste at source by promoting reduction in material use, reuse, recycling, and waste-to-energy technologies, and creating a “zero mindset” among employees that encouraged them to identify and reduce waste.

The announcement came in the same week as Unilever chief executive Paul Polman underlined the company’s commitment to leading the global corporate response to climate change, warning that without more ambitious measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions climate impacts would “put in jeopardy everything we have achieved since the 1960s in respect of poverty, food security, and social stability”.

Further reading:

Paul Polman: Tackling climate change will deliver “a better future for us all”

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