(MENAFN Editorial) Unilever, one of the world's leading FMCG companies and manufacturer of iconic brands such as Lipton and Lifebuoy, has held its second annual update conference to inform stakeholders of the key milestones achieved as part of its Unilever Sustainable Living Plan in the MENA region.
The event, held at the JW Marriot Marquis Hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, hosted key private sector partners and local and regional government entities, recognising their sustainability efforts at an awards ceremony.
The Unilever MENA Sustainable Living Plan commits the organisation to doubling the size of the business while reducing its environmental footprint and increasing its positive social impact. It consists of three main pillars of improving health and well being of 50 million people, halving the environmental impact of its products, and enhancing the livelihoods of thousands of people connected to its value chain.
"Unilever has, from its origins been a purpose-driven company. Today our purpose is to make sustainable living commonplace. This means helping to build a world where everyone lives well and within the natural limits of the planet. The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan sets out our sustainable business model, by which have committed ourselves towards developing new ways of doing business with the aim of doubling the size of our business while reducing our environmental impact." said Sanjiv Kakkar, Chairman, Unilever MENA.
On the health and hygiene front, the Unilever MENA Sustainable Living Plan aims to help 50 million people across MENA improve their oral health and hand hygiene via Lifebuoy and Signal by the year 2020. Working towards this goal, Unilever MENA educated 11.6 million people on oral and hand hygiene across 2012 and 2013, relying on an edutainment approach to reach children, labour camps, employees and consumers.. Business results have also been positive, with Lifebuoy seeing an incremental turnover (iTO) of EUR 2.5 million, and Signal of EUR 1 million.
The Unilever MENA Sustainable Living Plan has set a goal for a 50 percent reduction in Unilever MENA's environmental footprint across the product life cycle. It calls for reducing the environmental impact of production while addressing the region's water scarcity through product innovation and consumer education.
Compared to a 2008 baseline, Unilever MENA in 2013 has delivered a 30 percent increase in output across its factories in the Middle East, while reducing energy use by 4 percent and carbon dioxide by 5 percent. The overall effect has been a 27 percent reduction in terms of CO2 per tonne of production.
Unilever MENA has also overhauled production to deliver water savings, with water per tonne of production reduced by 14 percent in 2013 compared to 2008. "We are very pleased with the environmental efficiencies we have managed to introduce to the manufacturing process to deliver tangible positive impact on resource use. Our water per tonne of production has declined, despite an expansion of Personal Care liquid lines that tend to use more water," said Kakkar.
As per the Unilever MENA Sustainable Living Plan's guidelines, Unilever MENA has also significantly reduced non-hazardous waste disposal. Generation and waste disposal has been reduced by 40 percent, with four manufacturing sites achieving the coveted Zero Waste to Landfill status.
"Our tea factory in Jebel Ali is the first manufacturing plant in JAFZA, and in fact the entire UAE, to accomplishero Waste to Landfill status. Not only does this help us safeguard local ecology by reducing the need for waste dumps but also helps us reduce manufacturing overheads to deliver cost saving efficiencies," he added.
Unilever MENA has also been active in educating consumers to reduce water consumption. The Water Savers campaign in the Gulf & KSA is credited with reaching over 2.3 million consumers between 2012 and 2013, resulting in an iTO of EUR 0.5 million for the company's water saver brands*. The Unilever MENA Sustainable Living Plan's goal is to educate 4 million people on water conservation by 2020.
A crucial tenet of the Unilever MENA Sustainable Living Plan has been partnerships with key public utilities providers including Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) and Qatar General Electricity Corporation (KAHRAMAA).These partnerships have delivered endorsements and educational campaigns that have amplified the impact of the conservation campaign.
"An invaluable part of the Unilever MENA Sustainable Living Plan is working collaboratively with public sector partners across the board to generate synergies in messaging. We are proud of what we have managed to accomplish in association with our valued partners, and would like to thank them for their unwavering commitment towards our environmental goals," said Kakkar.
The Unilever MENA Sustainable Living Plan establishes a proactive set of goals to enhance livelihoods across the Middle East. Working with key partners, Unilever MENA has established Project Baqala in the Gulf, which assists grocery owners and retail entrepreneurs gain the expertise to streamline operations. Project Baqala aims to reach 100,000 grocery owners and entrepreneurs by 2017. By 2013, the initiative had helped 4,585 grocers to retail better through over 1,100 instructor led training programmes. 'Express' Baqala trainings were conducted for an additional 3,450 stores. Grocery stores that have benefited from Project Baqala are growing at a pace 23 percent ahead of the country average.
In Egypt, Unilever MENA has initiated Project Zineb to improve livelihood opportunities for disadvantaged females by delivering literacy and sales training while recruiting them to sell Unilever products. The project, which facilitated 2,000 women in 2013, aims to recruit a total 20,000 candidates by 2016.
Egypt is also home to Unilever MENA's Project Safeer, which is training young and educated but unemployed men to gain a means of livelihood by selling Unilever products. 248 'Safeers' have been recruited, with the goal of reaching 1,300 by 2016.
Through the Unilever Foundation, Unilever MENA is supporting UNICEF's 'Community Approaches to Total Sanitation' to eliminate open defecation in Sudan and South Sudan. The company has also created a culture of community engagement, initiating employee fundraisers for worthy causes. In 2013, Unilever's Gulf operations raised EUR 21,500 for refugees in Syria, matching employee contributions with equal donations from the business. A fundraiser held to assist vulnerable people in the Philippines impacted by Typhoon Yolanda also raised EUR 2,428 for aid efforts.
Key stakeholders invited to the second year update conference included Dubai Municipality, Ministry of Education, Dubai Health Authority, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, Carrefour, Lulu, Spinneys, Choithrams, Zuliekha Hospital, Abu Dhabi Co-operative Society, and KAHRAMAA “ Qatar, Specific Council for Training in Retail “ Bahrain.