Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s plan to roll out climate-friendly ice cream freezer cabinets in the United States this year. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, along with other Unilever ice cream brands including Breyers, Good Humor, Klondike, Magnum, and Popsicle, will soon be available in cabinets that use at least 10 percent less energy and replace harmful “F” gas coolants with hydrocarbon (HC) refrigerants. The new freezers will be identified with “Greener Freezer” stickers in demonstration of Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever’s environmental commitment to help protect the planet.
“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,” says Kees Kruythoff, head of Unilever North America. “Introduction of these more environmentally friendly cabinets in the U.S. is a critical advancement for the region.”
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) approved the technology behind the hydrocarbon freezer cabinets for use in the U.S., which Unilever has used for several years across Europe and Asia. In 2011 alone, Unilever rolled out 22,000 climate-friendly freezers in non-U.S. markets, resulting in a greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 12,000 tons of 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 U.S. For us, this sweet success is an environmental victory.”
Unilever’s legacy in environmental stewardship within the ice cream sector is strong. In 2000, the company committed to stop buying cabinets using hydro fluorocarbons (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,” says Amy Larkin, business advisor at Greenpeace who spoke at the Ben & Jerry’s program kickoff in 2008. “HFCs are projected to comprise 10 to 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions over the next 30 years, so this elimination is a significant step toward averting climate change.”
Unilever’s launch of the environmentally friendly freezers represents the latest proof point of the company’s Sustainable Living Plan, an aggressive commitment launched in 2010 to reduce Unilever’s environmental impact while doubling its business, according to a news release. The project also aligns with Ben & Jerry’s three-part mission statement, which holds product, economic and social issues as equally important. 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, the release adds.