Powered by Marmite: Unilever turns food waste into CO2 savings

Marmite power photo
CC BY 2.0 Bev Goodwin

From using certified sustainable palm oil (way back in 2008!) to cutting back on ink colors to reduce waste, food giant Unilever has pushed on multiple fronts to green its operations.

Now, as reported by Business Green, the company is making a big splash with news that it has saved over one million tonnes of CO2 since 2008 through, among other measures, an innovative waste-to-energy anaerobic digester at the factory that makes Marmite – that famous (and oh so deliciously salty) British yeast extract spread.

Now these days, another corporation announcing yet another carbon emissions milestone is hardly news in and of itself. In this case, however, I think there are a few things worth noting:

1. Energy efficiency has been a big part of their efforts, cutting consumption at 240 factories by over 20 percent.

2. The giant is investing heavily in onsite renewables, like the Marmite site described above. In fact, the company is gunning for sourcing 40 percent of its energy from renewables by 2020.

3. Unilever is making its voice head, and pushing for more concerted action from both political leaders and other corporations. In fact, Unilever's big announcement is a well-timed effort to pressure government leaders to finally take the threat of climate change seriously enough in the run up to the Paris climate talks.

While Marmite-powered energy production might be newsworthy (at least in Britain!), point number three might be the most important factor of all. As I argued when Google quit ALEC (and accused it of lying about climate change), it's extremely encouraging that big businesses are now investing heavily in renewables. But with the Big Energy incumbents still exerting a huge amount of influence on the political stage, other business leaders will need to make their own voices heard if they are genuine in their desire to truly fight climate change.

In an interview with the BBC, Unilever boss Paul Polman did not mince his words in terms of how much is at stake in Paris:

“There was a belief among some politicians that the main challenge is job creation and economic growth, and if we get side-tracked with climate we might not achieve the economic growth. The reality is, if we don’t tackle climate change we won’t achieve economic growth.”

I couldn't agree more.

Tags: Activism | Carbon Emissions | Corporate Responsibility

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