Unilever scales up energy and climate commitments

Reading time: 4 minutes
27 November 2015

LONDON: Consumer food multinational Unilever, a partner of The Climate Group's campaign RE100, has announced today it is to become ‘carbon positive’ in its operations by 2030 – meaning that it will save more emissions than it produces.

To do this, the company will source 100% of its energy from renewables by 2030, source 100% of its electricity purchased from the grid from renewables by 2020, eliminate coal from its energy mix by 2020 and directly support the generation of more renewable energy than it consumes and make the surplus available to the markets and communities in which it operates.

Unilever is already committed to 100% renewable power as part of The Climate Group's campaign RE100. It currently sources all of its grid electricity from renewable energy in Europe and the US, and Unilever Japan is to become the first Unilever business to switch to 100% renewable power for all its domestic operations.

The company had previously set an interim target to source 40% of its electricity globally from renewable energy by 2020. Today’s announcement strengthens its commitment by setting an end goal for 2030, when all of its electricity will need to come from renewables, and a bolder interim target for 2020.

The Climate Group's CEO Mark Kenber welcomed the announcement: "It's fantastic and encouraging that Unilever is making such ambitious climate and energy commitments - leading by example in the drive to a low carbon economy. 

“Unilever was already committed to using 100% renewable electricity as part of the RE100 campaign – today's announcement goes much further and sets out a clear trajectory for action. 

“Forward thinking companies are signalling loud and clear to governments meeting in Paris that they want green to be the direction of travel."

Looking to COP21

As part of its announcement Unilever acknowledges that much has changed since it launched its Sustainable Living Plan five years ago, and that while there is growing optimism for a strong climate agreement to come out of COP21 climate talks in Paris over the coming fortnight, the company wants to “go further and faster in the areas over which we have direct control.”

A company briefing says: “We hope our ambitious move forward will both encourage others to do the same and give confidence to leaders attending Paris that business supports and is planning for an accelerated decarbonisation of our economy.”

Net positive energy

Unilever says that to reach its 2030 energy target it will source a mix of purchased and self-generated renewables. The company intends to become a ‘net positive’ generator, supporting the generation of more renewable energy than it consumes and making the surplus available to the markets and communities in which it operates. By 2020, it expects to be powering more than 50% of its total energy consumption (heat and power combined) from renewables.

The company says that its success on being 100% renewable by 2030 “depends in part on the broader changes taking place in energy markets worldwide”.  But by setting an overall target year, Unilever is sending a strong signal to the different markets it operates in that it wants renewable energy – and its own investments will keep driving down costs.

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