The FMCG giant, which owns brands including Surf and PG Tips, says it hopes to appeal to younger shoppers by halving the amount of new plastic it uses. Unilever is the UK’s largest food producer and also owns dozens of health, beauty and cleaning products. Currently, the company produces around 700,000 tonnes of new plastic every year.
However, Unilever plans to decrease that figure over the next five years, using more recycled plastic and sourcing alternatives to plastic.
For many, glass is an obvious substitute, but it’s not always that simple.
According to Alan Jope, Unilever’s CEO: “A hysterical move to glass may be trendy but it would have a dreadful impact on the carbon footprint of packaging.”
Speaking with the BBC, Jope talked about the need for brands to remain relevant to younger consumers who are worried about the volume of plastic being used.
He went on to say that millennials (those born between 1980 and 1995) and Generation Z (those born between the mid-1990s and 2010) care about “purpose and sustainability.”
They are also concerned about “the conduct of the companies and the brands that they're buying.”
“This is part of responding to society but also remaining relevant for years to come in the market.”
Jope continued: “We profoundly believe that sustainability leads to a better financial top and bottom line.”
And Unilever aren’t the only company to have announced their action against plastic.
In April, Procter & Gamble announced plans to halve the amount of plastic it used by 2030. Nestle has said it is phasing out all non-recyclable plastics from its wrappers by 2025. And Coca Cola is committed to doubling the amount of recycled plastic it uses by 2020.
However, Jope pointed out that responsibility cannot just fall to industry alone. He said that information about recycling needed to clearer for consumers – and that required a more joined-up approach to recycling policies by the UK’s councils.
He explained: “If there was a standardised approach to collecting, sorting and processing, I think it would allow industry to standardise labelling and make it easier for people to segment their waste.”
Unilever maintains that any changes to its packaging will not lead to a price increase.
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