Unilever makes progress on its sustainable packaging goals
Unilever steps up its use of recycled plastic and shares updates on refill and reuse journey
London/Rotterdam; 29 October 2020. Unilever, owner of brands including Dove, Seventh Generation and Magnum, continues to make progress towards its ambitious commitments for a waste-free world, despite the challenging environment created by Covid-19. Unilever’s commitments remain unchanged and the company has significantly stepped up its use of recycled plastic.
Last year, Unilever became the first major consumer goods company to commit to an absolute plastic reduction across its portfolio. By 2025, the company confirmed it will halve its use of virgin plastic by reducing its use of plastic packaging by more than 100,000 tonnes and accelerating its use of recycled plastic. One year on, Unilever shares an update on its progress; it has:
As a result of these actions, Unilever is on track to reduce its use of virgin plastic packaging since it made its new commitments.
Throwaway culture and throwaway business models continue to dominate our lives and damage our planet. Despite challenging conditions, we must not turn our backs on plastic pollution. It is crucial that we – and the rest of the industry – stay the course, cut the amount of plastic we use, and rapidly transition to a circular economy.Alan Jope, Unilever’s CEO says:
Unilever continues to explore new ways of delivering products through its ‘Less, Better, No’ plastic framework.
Unilever continues to work with many partners to help collect and process plastic packaging, with programmes in multiple countries, including Brazil, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, United Kingdom and United States. This includes direct investments and partnerships in waste collection and processing, building capacity by buying recycled plastics, and through supporting well-designed extended producer responsibility schemes in which Unilever directly pays for the collection of its packaging.
In India, Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) has partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to protect the livelihoods of informal waste collectors, and to help segregate, collect and recycle packaging. The partnership has reached over 33,000 households and collected 2,500 tonnes of plastic waste. The project will be scaled to include more households in the coming years.
Since 2018, HUL has facilitated safe disposal of more than one lakh tonnes of post-consumer use plastic laminate waste. This was done with the help of collection and disposal partners in nearly 100 towns across India.
In Indonesia, Unilever has already helped communities in 18 cities develop systems where they can collect and sell waste. Unilever is using ‘Google My Business’, a platform which enables consumers to access the location of nearby waste banks directly on Google Maps. Currently, 424 waste banks are searchable on the digital tool, and the aim is to make 2,000 waste banks available through Google Maps by the end of 2020.
As part of today’s update, Unilever shares its learnings on refill and reuse models. Unilever has had success with concentrated refill at home innovations from OMO and Cif. OMO Concentrate became Unilever’s first dilute-at-home laundry detergent. It was launched in Brazil in 2019 and has seen great success, shifting 30% of OMO 3L consumers in Brazil to the refill at home format.
In the 12 months since its UK launch, Cif Ecorefills have saved 171 tonnes of plastic and empowered hundreds of thousands of customers to reuse spray bottles rather than buy new ones.
Unilever continues to experiment in the area of in-store refills, even in a Covid-19 environment and has further pilots planned globally. This month in the UK, Unilever launched its largest in-store refill trial in Europe across some of its laundry, personal care and tea brands.
From the learnings, Unilever favours simple systems that minimise barriers to entry, provide an additional benefit and limit the consumer behaviour shift. To accelerate the transition to a circular economy and further reduce the use of virgin plastic, Unilever now has dedicated teams looking at scaling new business models.
Richard Slater, Unilever’s Chief R&D Officer says: “To tackle the root causes of plastic waste we need to think differently about packaging. We need bold innovations that challenge existing designs, materials and business models. Our priority is to fundamentally rethink our approach to packaging, and pave the way for new solutions such as reusable and refillable formats.
“By adopting a ‘test, learn and refine’ mentality, we’ve developed innovative solutions that will help people cut their use of plastic for good. One product doing just that is our ultra-concentrated formula for OMO which is diluted at home and uses 72% less plastic. After a successful launch in Brazil, we’re now rolling this out in other countries across Latin America, Europe and the Middle East. Similarly, our Cif Ecorefill started out as a pilot in the UK and has since been rolled out across Europe, Canada and Australia.
“It’s still early days. But by making refill and reuse formats more widely available, accessible, and affordable, we hope to use our scale and reach to drive lasting change.”
*For the period 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020.