Unilever is the first global fast-moving consumer goods company to commit to sustainable paper sourcing on this scale within a clearly defined timeframe.
Of the 62% achieved in 2013, 39% comprised recycled fibre and 23% certified virgin fibre.
We continue to make significant improvements to our data collection and reporting processes so that we now have more detailed, auditable data that no longer relies on estimates. In 2013 we built a system that links sustainable sourcing data from our suppliers to our business data. In 2013 our supplier data covered 91% of our volumes.
Over 2010-2012 we reported all paper and board packaging, including material delivered by our suppliers to our third party manufacturers. We have not yet been able to find a robust way to link this third party material to our business data so we have excluded it from our 2013 reporting. This and the 91% coverage meant that overall we achieved 62% sustainably sourced material in 2013 versus 63% in 2012.
The sustainable sourcing agenda for paper and board (P&B) packaging is complex and rapidly evolving. In 2013 we facilitated a workshop with suppliers and industry stakeholders to accelerate progress and build consensus towards sustainable sourcing. Key recommendations included the need to work on the common goal of removing deforestation from the supply chain. The outcome of the workshop was a clear roadmap to 100% P&B compliance by 2020 from certified, sustainably managed forests or from recycled material.
We are working to revise our paper and board packaging sourcing policy, which we expect to finalise in 2014. In 2013, we worked in collaboration with the Consumer Goods Forum to develop an industry P&B Sourcing Guideline, which will be adopted by many consumer goods companies. Unilever was also instrumental in organising the Tropical Forest Alliance meeting in Jakarta in July. This was the first forum to involve government, the private sector and civil society focusing on finding solutions to tackle deforestation caused by four commodities, including pulp and paper.
During 2009, we worked with Rainforest Alliance to review the sustainable sourcing practices of our key suppliers and understand our sourcing challenges and opportunities. We also engaged with key stakeholders and organisations promoting sustainable forest management. This work informed the development of our policy.
We aim to buy paper packaging that comes either from well-managed forests or from recycled material, whichever is best in order to ensure product quality. To achieve our goal, we work with our suppliers and other stakeholders to:
For paper from virgin sources, we give preference to supplies delivered through the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification scheme. We also accept other national schemes under the framework of international forest management certification standards, such as the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), provided they comply with our policy’s implementation guidelines. An ongoing part of our work is to equip our procurement managers with the knowledge and understanding of sustainable sourcing. We do this through regular training.
We are engaging with our paper and board packaging suppliers to discuss our policy requirements, assess their current capabilities and establish a roadmap towards achieving our ambitious targets. As part of this, we arrange seminars in those areas where sustainable sourcing practices are not yet common. The seminars help suppliers learn how to build material origin management systems and sustainable sourcing policies and procedures. We monitor our suppliers’ progress via self-assessments and progress reports, using a system and software developed for this purpose.
The logos of acceptable forest management certification schemes have also started to appear on our brands’ packaging, which helps to increase consumer awareness and promote the expansion of certified forests.
What is virgin paper?
‘Virgin’ or ‘fresh’ fibre is fibre extracted from a plant of some sort, the most common being wood fibre from trees.
In some cases, trees are planted in forest areas for the purpose of getting fibres for paper and board production; in other cases, wood comes from timber industries and forest thinning. Typically, fibre used for paper making is from timber that cannot be used for other purposes, eg immature trees removed to let other trees mature (‘thinnings’) and sawmill waste. Once this virgin fibre has been made into paper it can be recycled several times (typically five to seven times).
How do we define recycled?
'Recycling’ means giving material a second life rather than simply disposing of it. The recycled material used for our packaging comes from two main sources. ‘Post-consumer waste’ is packaging which has been used, ie it has served its purpose.
The other source of recycled material is ‘post-industrial’. This is material which for one reason or other was not used directly for the packaging. The most common form of post-industrial waste is ‘clippings’, which is waste generated when packaging is cut to shape. As both post-consumer and post-industrial waste would be disposed of by sending it to landfill if not recycled, we do not differentiate between them.
How do we choose between virgin or recycled paper?
We start by looking at the application and what the packaging is required to do. Where safety regulations demand a virgin material, then the choice is very simple. Where there is a choice it will be the best material for the application and the material that is most readily available, as not all materials are available everywhere. If we have a choice and recycled material is available, delivering the performance required, then we will give preference to recycled material.
Sourcing our office materials sustainably
We are committed to ensuring that we use paper responsibly in our offices too. However, eliminating paper from the workplace will not always be legally or technically possible, so whilst we are committed to reducing our use of paper to the minimum, we are also ensuring that the paper we do use originates from sustainable or recycled sources.
Targets & performance