It has been only 12 months since Unilever unveiled plans to become a carbon positive business by 2030 and now it has struck up a partnership with sustainable solutions provider GENeco to utilise biomethane at five sites across the UK and Ireland. The deal will see Unilever move towards its ambitious green energy future, establishing a carbon neutral operation at office sites in southern England and food and drink factories in Norwich and Cork.
Unilver will use GENeco’s biomethane which is produced at its Bristol-based anaerobic digestion facility where food waste and sewage is converted into usable energy. This latest initiative from Unilever supports its already ingrained green energy policy which began with the launch of its Sustainable Living Plan in 2010. The consumer goods company has made significant gains, cutting its gas footprint within its manufacturing operation by 39% since 2008. That’s the equivalent of one million tonnes of carbon per year. The introduction of biomethane will be another major step towards its sustainable energy ambitions.
Sarah Newbitt, VP Supply Chain, Unilever UK & Ireland, said, “One year ago, as world leaders came together for COP21 (the United Nations Climate Change Conference), for the first time Unilever made a time-bound commitment to making our sites carbon positive by 2030. This is a highly ambitious and stretching target which requires us to take small steps and look at all of our sites through a fresh, sustainability lens.
“Biomethane or “green gas” is still in its relative infancy compared to other forms of renewable energy, so our commitment to source 100% renewable energy for five UK & Ireland sites marks a significant step forward, not only in Unilever’s journey, but for the industry. However, we need to continue to go further and we hope to be able to build on this great foundation and eventually use the waste from our own operations as feed stock to truly support a circular economy.”
As part of its Sustainable Living Plan, Unilever has committed to source 100% of its total energy across operations from renewable sources by 2030; source all electricity purchased from the grid from renewable sources by 2020; eliminate coal from its energy mix by 2020; and directly support the generation of more renewable energy than the company consumes and make the surplus available to the markets and communities in which it operates.
Practicing what it preaches, GENeco has operated as carbon neutral business since 2013, sending no waste to landfill in that time. Its biomethane, produced via the process of anaerobic digestion, takes disposed household food and sewage to turn waste into usable energy that can be injected into the national gas grid to power homes or even used as fuel for vehicles.
GENeco managing director Mohammed Saddiq was understandably pleased with the partnership, not least because it helps satisfy GENeco’s desire to support a carbon neutral UK. Saddiq added that in order for the UK to meet 2020 targets as defined by the Renewable Energy Directive there must be an increasing emphasis on biomethane in the UK’s heat networks.
“We believe that in order for the UK to meet the 2020 targets as defined in the Renewable Energy Directive, there will need to be an increasing role for biomethane in the UK’s heat networks.”
Photo by John M.