Unilever builds green food plant in Durban
Dec 12th 2011, 08:54
Unilever, the global fast-moving goods supply group, has built a R670m savoury dry food plant at Riverhorse Valley in Durban, according to chairman of Unilever SA, Marijn van Tiggelen.
The plant, which makes brands such as Knorr, Robertsons, Knorrox, Aromat and Rajah, produces 65000 tons of product a year and has an expansion capability of 100000 tons. It also has the potential to become the biggest Unilever plant of its type worldwide.
"It is the first green manufacturing plant for SA, reducing its carbon footprint and the first major private greenfields investment since the Soccer World Cup," Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said at the opening of the plant on Friday.
Globally, Unilever operates 250 plants, selling about 170-billion products in 180 countries annually.
The new Durban plant, Idonsa, is the second-largest in the Unilever stable, and the fifth that the group operates in SA.
The 500 employed in the new plant will bring the group’s total staff in SA to about 3000.
Unilever supply chain officer Pier-Luigi Sigismondi said the plant would use 75% less water than similar plants elsewhere and would be water-neutral, with even the condensation from the air conditioners being reused to clean toilets.
The plant, about the size of three soccer fields, would use 50% less energy than similar plants by using better lighting and insulation methods, and more efficient motors and air compressors. Solid waste would be recycled.
Mr Davies said competitive advantage today meant adjusting to a low-carbon economy.
Agriprocessing was a key industrial sector being promoted by the government due to the large agricultural sector in SA, he said.
The investment in the plant indicated the confidence in SA as an investment destination and in the country’s manufacturing capability, said Mr Davies.
"It is imperative for Unilever to respond positively to growing global demand for sustainably sourced products. We will continuously reduce our impact across the life cycle of our products and intensify the advancement of new technologies," Mr Sigismondi said.
Globally the group was targeting to cut the environmental effect of all its products by 50% and to source all of its agricultural raw materials sustainably. About 50% of the raw materials for the new plant would be sourced locally, although the intention was to increase this over time.
In October, Unilever was one of 175 companies that committed to working to keep the effect of greenhouse gas emissions below a 2°C rise in average temperatures. That, scientists say, is the least that should be maintained to avoid damaging the climate. The companies signed up to the 2°C Challenge of the newly established Corporate Leaders Network for Climate Action .
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