Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s jointly announced on Feb. 14 that they plan to roll-out what sources describe as, "climate-friendly" ice cream freezer cabinets in the U.S. in 2012.
Unilever brands —Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Breyers, Good Humor, Klondike, Magnum, and Popsicle — will soon be available in cabinets that use at least 10% less energy and replace harmful “F” gas coolants with hydrocarbon (HC) refrigerants. The new freezers will be identified with “Greener Freezer” stickers.
“Over the last decade, Unilever has been at the forefront of sustainable innovation, significantly reducing the environmental impact of our ice cream cabinets around the world,” according to Kees Kruythoff, head of Unilever North America. “Introduction of these more environmentally friendly cabinets in the US is a critical advancement for the region," Kruythoff says.
The greener freezer program, initiated by Ben & Jerry’s in the fall of 2008, relied heavily on Unilever’s global HC refrigeration expertise. The undertaking was supported by a collaborative concern to address environmental impact by both organizations. After four years of trials and coordination, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently approved the technology behind the hydrocarbon freezer cabinets for use in the US, which Unilever has used for several years across Europe and Asia. In 2011 alone, Unilever rolled out 22,000 climate-friendly freezers in non-US markets, resulting in a greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 12,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).
"It’s a great day when Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever’s efforts to introduce innovative technology positively impacts the environment," says Jostein Solheim, CEO of Ben & Jerry's. “Since 2008, we have worked alongside Greenpeace in pursuit of a more responsible freezer for the US. For us, this sweet success is an environmental victory," Solheim says.
In 2000, Unilever committed to no longer purchase cabinets using hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). In 2004, Unilever started replacing these cabinets with "climate-friendly" HC refrigerants. Today, Unilever has more than 900,000 HC freezers in markets across the globe and has committed to purchasing all its U.S. freezers using the HC technology.
“Unilever’s leadership in eliminating HFCs from its coolers is helping to transform the entire sector,” comments Amy Larkin, business advisor at Greenpeace, who spoke at the Ben & Jerry’s program kick-off in 2008. “HFCs are projected to comprise 10-20% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions over the next 30 years, so this elimination is a significant step toward averting climate change.”
The freezer campaign is part of Unilever's Sustainable Living Plan, an aggressive commitment launched in 2010 to reducing Unilever’s environmental impact while doubling its business. The project also aligns with Ben & Jerry’s three-part mission statement, which holds product, economic and social issues as equally important. Sources say reliable refrigeration is essential to Ben & Jerry's product quality, while the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and strides toward energy efficiency speak to both the social and economic missions of the brand.