The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan for

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Greenhouse gases

To help tackle climate change, we have set a bold new ambition to be carbon positive in our operations by 2030.

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Urgent action is needed to combat climate change. 

In November 2015, we announced that we will become carbon positive in our operations by 2030. We will source 100% of the energy used within our operations from renewable sources by 2030, and generate more renewable energy than we consume. 

We are also working to lower our greenhouse gas (GHG) impact from sourcing, manufacturing and innovation, as well as deepening our efforts to eliminate deforestation from our supply chains.

We have an ambitious commitment to halve the greenhouse gases (GHG) associated with the consumer use of our products in our value chain.


Our Commitment

Halve the greenhouse gas impact of our products across the lifecycle by 2030.1


In 2015, our greenhouse gas impact per consumer use increased by around 6% since 2010.


Our manufacturing greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts continue to reduce. In 2015 our factory sites reduced CO2 from energy by 39% per tonne of production in 2015 compared to 2008. 

The GHG impact of our products has nevertheless still risen by 6% since 2010. Underlying sales growth over the same period was 26%, so it is encouraging to see that we are indeed decoupling our value chain GHG impacts from our business growth. 

By the end of 2015 we had reduced our global use of phosphates across our laundry powders by 90%. This has lowered GHG emissions by up to 50% per consumer use. 

The increase in GHG emissions per consumer use however is mainly driven by our Personal Care business which has expanded in hair and shower products via acquisitions. Over 60% of our value chain GHG footprint comes from consumer use, primarily from heated water for showering, which is more difficult to influence. So we have realised that we will not achieve our ambition by 2020. 

However, we remain committed to a full value chain approach and to decoupling our greenhouse impacts from our growth because a full value chain approach most meaningfully reflects the true impact of our business.

Since we launched our Plan in 2010, we have learnt a lot about the areas we can influence and those we cannot, and which areas need wider action from other players, in particular the need for consumers to shift to renewable energy. 

As a result of this learning, in 2015 we sharpened our strategy and refined our targets. We have decided to extend our GHG halving commitment to 2030. Three of our underpinning targets2 repeat the actions we are taking as part of this halving goal so we have therefore decided to report progress on these as part of our halving goal rather than separately. 

We have also set new targets to become ‘carbon positive’ in our operations by 2030. This includes sourcing 100% of our total energy from renewable sources by 2030 and extends to making surplus renewable energy available to the markets and communities where we operate.

We are also seeking to create transformational change. In the run up to the UN Climate Change conference in Paris (COP21) in 2015, Unilever was part of the B Team’s call for net zero GHG emissions globally by 2050.

1 Our environmental targets are expressed against a baseline of 2010, as calculated in December 2015, and on a 'per consumer use' basis. This means a single use, portion or serving of a product.

2 Reducing GHG while washing and showering; concentration and compaction of products; and lower temperature laundry/correct dosage of detergent.

Independently assured by PwC.

  • Achieved: 3
  • On-plan: 8
  • Off-plan: 1
  • %% of target achieved: 0

Our targets

Please see Independent Assurance (EN) for more details of our assurance programme across the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.


  • By 2020 CO2 emissions from energy from our factories will be at or below 2008 levels despite significantly higher volumes.

This represents a reduction of around 40% per tonne of production.

Versus a 1995 baseline, this represents a 63% reduction per tonne of production and a 43% absolute reduction.

We will become carbon positive in our manufacturing by 2030:

  • We will source 100% of our energy across our operations from renewable sources by 2030.
    New target 2015*
  • We will source all our electricity purchased from the grid from renewable sources by 2020.
    New target 2015
  • We will eliminate coal from our energy mix by 2020.
    New target 2015
  • In order to achieve our target of carbon positive by 2030, we intend to directly support the generation of more renewable energy than we consume and make the surplus available to the markets and communities in which we operate.
    New target 2015
  • All newly built factories will aim to have less than half the impact of those in our 2008 baseline.

1,015,000 fewer tonnes of CO2 from energy produced in 2015 than in 2008 (a reduction of 39% per tonne of production).

Compared to 1995, this represents a 65% reduction in absolute terms.

At end 2015 renewable energy contributed 28% of our total energy use compared to 15.8% in 2008.

We will report on this target in our 2016 Sustainable Living Report.

We will report on this target in our 2016 Sustainable Living Report.

We will report on this target in our 2016 Sustainable Living Report.

New factories in China, Indonesia, South Africa, and the US started production in 2015. When fully operational each aims to achieve only half the emissions of CO2 from energy compared to a representative 2008 baseline.


In 2015, we reduced CO2 emissions from energy by 4% per tonne of production vs 2014, showing consistent progress towards our 2020 target.

We also reduced absolute emissions compared to 2014. Our absolute reduction of 1,015,000† tonnes remains significantly below our 2008 baseline.

We continued to reduce energy use: by 4.4% per tonne of production in 2015 and by 23% since 2008.

In 2015 we announced a new ‘carbon positive’ target through which we will: source all our electricity purchased from the grid from renewable sources by 2020; eliminate coal from our energy mix by 2020; and source 100% of total energy across all manufacturing operations from renewable energy by 2030. This supersedes our previous target of sourcing 40% of our energy across our operations from renewable sources by 2020. All our sites in Europe, the US and Canada purchase grid electricity from certified renewable sources; in 2015 we met 28% of our global energy needs from renewable sources.

* Our new target supersedes our previous target of sourcing 40% of our energy across our operations from renewable sources by 2020.

Independently assured by PwC


Reformulating our products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2012

Over 95% (by volume) of our laundry powders in our top 14 countries have been reformulated, achieving a reduction of 15% in greenhouse gas emissions by end 20121

We continue to reformulate by optimising raw material usage in powders and capsules and optimising our manufacturing.


Liquid laundry detergents have a lower greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint than powders. We are driving market development through liquids: we grow faster in liquids wherever powders, bars and liquids are present. 

Many of our liquids are now sold in concentrated form. They also provide great cleaning performance at lower temperatures. 

We are also increasing the number of unit dose washes in the form of capsules which mean consumers cannot over or under dose. 

We continue to lead the industry in developing lower impact powders by removing or reducing phosphate and zeolite – key components with high GHG impact. We have now reached a 90% reduction in the global use of phosphates across our laundry powders, resulting in lower GHG emissions of up to 50% per single consumer use. 

We are also improving our packaging to reduce emissions by making it lightweight and using refill packs.

1 In PwC’s assurance of this target (published in March 2014), they were able to assure that we had reduced GHG by 7% in our laundry products, based on data from our automated 2010 baseline. However, PwC did not review the 2008-2009 data when a substantial part of this reformulation took place to enable us to reach 15% by the end of 2012.


By 2020, CO2 emissions from our global logistics network will be at or below 2010 levels despite significantly higher volumes. This will represent a 40% improvement in CO2 efficiency.

We will achieve this by reducing truck mileage; using lower emission vehicles; employing alternative transport such as rail or ship; and improving the energy efficiency of our warehouses.

22% improvement in CO2 efficiency since 2010. 0.7% improvement in CO2 efficiency and a 0.2% increase in absolute terms in 2015 compared to 20141.


While we have achieved a 22% improvement in CO2 efficiency since 2010, we made little progress during 2015. 

We faced many challenges in 2015 and meeting our 2020 commitment remains ambitious. We are continuing to build on the strong foundations we have in place. Through innovation and developing bottom-up carbon reduction projects, we will share best practices to ensure we build efficiency into our transportation logistics.

We are increasingly using non-road forms of transport such as rail and sea to move goods. For journeys still undertaken by road, we are investing in liquefied natural gas (LNG) as an alternative fuel, conducting trials around the world. In 2015 we established a Unilever-led consortium of companies and third-party logistics providers in Europe, Connect2LNG, with an ambition to build five LNG fuelling stations to support our commitment to use alternative fuels in the future.

1 Cumulative improvement since 2010 is measured across our top 14 countries; annual improvement is measured in more than 50 countries.


As the world’s largest producer of ice cream, we will accelerate our roll-out of freezer cabinets that use climate-friendly natural (hydrocarbon) refrigerants. When we launched our Plan in November 2010 we had already purchased 450,000 units with the new refrigerant. 

  • We will purchase a further 850,000 units by 2015.

In 2013 we exceeded our target of purchasing 850,000 climate-friendly freezers, reaching a total of around 1.5 million.

In 2015 our total increased to around 2 million hydrocarbon freezers.


The climate-friendly hydrocarbon (HC) refrigerants we use in our freezers have a negligible global warming potential compared to previously used hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The freezers are also around 10% more energy efficient. By the end of 2015, we had purchased around 2 million freezers using natural refrigerants.

We continue to roll out climate-friendly HC freezers and to make our freezers more energy efficient. In 2015, we started rolling out the latest technologies, which can reduce energy use by over 50% (versus our 2008 baseline). We are also working on the next generation of freezers with energy savings of up to 60% and investigating the use of renewable energy, such as solar, to power our cabinets. 

We continue to work with industry to promote more environmentally-friendly freezers. Via Refrigerants, Naturally! we advocated a ban on the damaging HFCs from many commonly-used types of freezers in Europe, which comes into effect from 2022.


By 2020 we will halve the energy (kWh) purchased per occupant for the offices in our top 21 countries versus 2010.

27% reduction in energy (kWh) purchased per occupant since 2010.


We have set a challenging 2020 target to reduce energy consumption at our in-scope sites. Achieving it will require a combination of local site efficiency improvements, increased office density and a focus on the largest energy consuming sites. Since 2010 we have reduced energy purchased per occupant by 27%. 

We achieved a 6% reduction in energy consumption per occupant in 2015. Contributing factors included the move by several offices to more efficient facilities, the continued effectiveness of our PC power management tool and a switch from oil to gas at one of our more energy intensive sites.


We are investing in advanced video conferencing facilities to make communication easier while reducing travel for our employees. By 2011 this network will cover more than 30 countries.

54 countries were covered by end 2011.


By the end of 2011, we had exceeded our target to implement advanced video conferencing facilities in over 30 countries.

Our advanced video conferencing system, Video Presence, is used for over 950 meetings a month across Unilever offices worldwide. This is substantially reducing our need to travel to meetings, and our CO2 emissions. It delivers clear benefits such as cost and time savings for the business and cuts down on tiring travel for our employees. To further reduce our GHG employee travel impacts, we have introduced messages on the benefits of using Video Presence when employees use our travel booking system to book flights. This encourages employees to travel only when necessary.


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