Unilever makes ambitious new commitments to a waste-free world
Unilever makes ambitious new commitments to a waste-free world
London/Rotterdam: Unilever, owner of brands such as Dove, Ben & Jerry’s, Lipton and Omo, has made ambitious new commitments to reduce its plastic waste and contribute to the transition to a circular economy for plastics.
Plastics in the sea
Unilever has confirmed that it will do so by 2025:
The use of new plastic will be halved, reducing the absolute use of plastic packaging by more than 100,000 tonnes and accelerating the use of recycled plastic.
More plastic packaging will help to collect and dispose of than it sells.
With these new targets, Unilever is the first major global consumer goods company to commit to an absolute reduction in plastic in its portfolio.
Unilever is on track to meet earlier targets. For example, it will ensure that all plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 and will use at least 25% recycled plastic in its packaging by 2025.
Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever: “Plastic has its place, but not in the environment. We can only reduce plastic waste by acting quickly and taking radical action. At all points in the plastic chain.
Our starting point must be design – that is, reducing the amount of plastic we use – and then making sure that the plastic we use comes increasingly from recycled sources. We have previously set ourselves the goal of ensuring that all our plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable.
This requires a fundamental rethinking of the approach to our packaging and products. We need to introduce new, innovative packaging materials and scale up new business models, such as reusable and refillable packaging. This needs to be done with unprecedented speed and intensity.
The new commitments mean that by 2025 Unilever will help to collect and process around 600,000 tonnes of plastic annually. This will be achieved through investments and partnerships that improve the waste management infrastructure in many of the countries in which Unilever operates.
Jope adds: “Our vision is a world where everyone works together to ensure that plastic stays in the economy, but out of the environment. Our plastic is our responsibility and that’s why we make a commitment to collect more than we sell as part of our commitment to a circular economy. This is a hugely challenging, but at the same time exciting task that will contribute to the growth of global demand for recycled plastic.
Ellen MacArthur, founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation: “Unilever’s announcement today is an important step in creating a circular economy for plastics. By removing unnecessary packaging through innovations such as reusable or refillable packaging and concentrates, combined with increased use of recycled plastic, Unilever is showing how companies can become less and less dependent on new plastic. We encourage others to follow their example, to work together to remove unnecessary plastic, to innovate so that what we do need becomes circular and ultimately to create an economic system where plastic packaging never becomes waste”.
Since 2017 Unilever has been working on a whole new approach to plastic packaging based on the principle of ‘Less, Better, No Plastic’.
Through Less Plastic, Unilever has explored new ways of packaging and supplying products, including the use of the new Cif super-concentrated Eco refill packaging which requires 75% less plastic, and new shampoo and detergent refill stations in stores, universities and mobile outlets in South East Asia.
For example, better plastic has led to breakthrough innovations such as the new detectable pigment used by Axe and TRESemmé, making black plastic recyclable as it can now be detected and sorted by scanners in recycling facilities.
As part of No plastic, Unilever has introduced innovations such as shampoo bars, refillable toothpaste tablets, cardboard deodorant sticks and bamboo toothbrushes. The company also joined the Loop platform, which explores new ways to deliver and collect reusable products at home.
As part of today’s announcement, Unilever posted a video on its website raising the issue of plastic in the ocean and pledging to play its part in ‘turning the blue planet back blue’.
Note for editors
Unilever’s footprint of plastic packaging today is around 700,000 tonnes per annum (including recent acquisitions).
The company today makes two pledges:
1) Reduce our new plastic packaging by 50% by 2025, one third of which (over 100,000 tonnes) comes from an absolute reduction in plastic.
More than 100,000 tonnes comes from an absolute reduction by investing in multi-use packaging (reusable and/or refillable), plastic-free solutions (alternative packaging materials or unpackaged products) and reducing the amount of plastic in existing packaging (concentration). The remaining reduction consists of replacing non-recycled plastic packaging with recycled plastic. Unilever will measure the total number of tonnes of new plastic packaging used each year against the total number of new plastic packaging used in 2018. As a result of this commitment, Unilever is committed to having a footprint of new plastic packaging of up to 350,000 tonnes by 2025.
2) Help collect and process more plastic packaging by 2025 than we sell.
Unilever’s commitment is that by 2025 it will help to collect and dispose of around 600,000 tonnes of plastic annually. This is less than our current footprint of 700,000 tonnes of plastic packaging because the absolute reduction of 100,000 tonnes promised above is included in this figure.
Unilever will deliver on this commitment:
i) Direct investment and waste collection and treatment partnerships
(ii) Purchase and use of recycled plastic in its packaging
(iii) Participation in extended producer responsibility programmes where Unilever pays directly for the collection of its packaging
Unilever will measure the total number of tonnes of plastic packaging it has helped to collect and process in a year in relation to the amount of plastic packaging it uses.
Over the past five years Unilever has worked with many partners to collect plastic packaging, including the United Nations Development Programme, to separate, collect and recycle packaging across India. In addition, it has contributed to the establishment of nearly 3,000 waste banks in Indonesia, giving more than 400,000 people the opportunity to recycle their waste. In Brazil, Unilever has a long-standing partnership with retailer Grupo Pão de Açúcar to help collect waste through drop-off stations.
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Where relevant, these actions are subject to the appropriate consultations and approvals.
This announcement may contain forward-looking statements, including ‘forward-looking statements’ within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Words such as ‘will’, ‘aim’, ‘expects’, ‘anticipates’, ‘intends’, ‘looks’, ‘believes’, ‘vision’, or the negative of these terms and other similar expressions of future performance or results, and their negatives, are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based upon current expectations and assumptions regarding anticipated developments and other factors affecting the Unilever Group (the ‘Group’). They are not historical facts, nor are they guarantees of future performance.
Because these forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, there are important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Among other risks and uncertainties, the material or principal factors which could cause actual results to differ materially are: Unilever’s global brands not meeting consumer preferences; Unilever’s ability to innovate and remain competitive; Unilever’s investment choices in its portfolio management; inability to find sustainable solutions to support long-term growth; the effect of climate change on Unilever’s business; customer relationships; the recruitment and retention of talented employees; disruptions in our supply chain; the cost of raw materials and commodities; the production of safe and high quality products; secure and reliable IT infrastructure; successful execution of acquisitions, divestitures and business transformation projects; economic and political risks and natural disasters; financial risks; failure to meet high and ethical standards; and managing regulatory, tax and legal matters. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this announcement. Except as required by any applicable law or regulation, the Group expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect any change in the Group’s expectations with regard thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any such statement is based. Further details of potential risks and uncertainties affecting the Group are described in the Group’s filings with the London Stock Exchange, Euronext Amsterdam and the US Securities and Exchange Commission, including in the Annual Report on Form 20-F 2019 and the Unilever Annual Report and Accounts 2019.