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, VP IT infrastructure services at Unilever

Driving sustainability through IT


, VP IT infrastructure services at Unilever
8 May, 2012 04:43 pm
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A year after launching our groundbreaking Sustainable Living Plan, Unileverís IT is successfully helping us to drive and deliver sustainability results throughout the business. Our ambition is to double the size of the business, whilst halving its overall environmental impact, over a decade. We are also committed to doing what we can to improve health, nutrition and hygiene.


The figures showing what has been delivered tell an interesting story of how embedding a culture of sustainability and changing day to day behaviours within a workforce are paying off.

Making a sustainable future

Unilever's global vision is to make sustainable living a driver of everything the business does. The business has underpinned this with the Sustainable Living Plan, launched in November 2010, committing to take responsibility for the company's impacts right across the value chain, from the sourcing of raw materials all the way through to the consumer's use of its†products to cook, clean and wash. Energy, waste and paper reductions in the non-manufacturing environments are three of the commitments in the wide ranging plan where IT plays its important part. †

We're pleased with our progress against the targets, as published in our annual progress report on 24 April, but there's still much to do. Our key drivers for creating an environmentally sustainable IT setup link back to our core business ambitions to reduce our environmental impact whilst increasing our positive social impact. Our 'Green IT' plans play an important role in delivering this.

We're working towards IT reducing its own energy footprint and supporting the energy reduction commitment in our workplaces. A real tangible example of how IT innovations are driving sustainability is through agile working. Last year by investing in the technology to hold virtual video conferencing meetings in 26 countries, we eliminated the need for around 14,500 short-haul and 23,500 long-haul flights. Not only did this help us to avoid CO2 emissions of approximately 113,500 tonnes, but we saved around €39.5 million (£32.2 million) in travel related costs.

Other examples are equally as impressive. We have found that as the cost of buying energy rises, more efficient IT management makes greater business sense. We have reduced our operating costs and greenhouse gas emissions by decommissioning 2,500 servers and replacing with new virtualisation technology in our global data centres. The new technology, which makes more efficient use of a server's capabilities by increasing the number of applications it can run at the same time, has already avoided approximately €535,000 (£436,000) in energy costs, equating to a saving of a total of 4.5 gigawatt hrs.

Gold Energy Star Standard

Being associate members of the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, in which businesses and consumers commit to using power-efficient products, Unilever is working hard to meet and exceed the stringent energy standards. All our new PCs, laptops and servers purchased or leased in 2011 meet Silver or Gold Energy Star Standards.

Investing to save
With a global IT office network of approximately 90,000 workstations and 4,000 servers, Unilever always has an eye on how to save energy, especially as we have set ourselves a tough goal of halving the energy (kWh) purchased per occupant for the offices in its top 21 countries by 2020.

To meet this goal Unilever continues to actively invest in energy efficient equipment choices, such as replacing hundreds of fax machines, scanners and printers with multifunction devices. Equally high-reaching goals include our plans to cut employee paper consumption by 30 per cent per head by 2015 in Unilever's top 21 countries, by encouraging employees to print less and reducing the number of printers. A new global print standard will also help to reduce print volumes further by ensuring that duplex printing becomes a default setting.

Our 10 year Sustainable Living Plan is not only for developing and emerging markets. It is just as relevant for Europe and the United States as it is for India, Nigeria and China. We know that if our own 170,000 people and their families were to make more sustainable choices, at work and at home, then together our small actions would add up to a big difference.†
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Paulo de SŠ is vice president of IT infrastructure services at Unilever. He reports to the chief enterprise support officer, and is also a member of the global IT leadership board reporting to the group...

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