Unilever cites heritage, sustainability in Pasig River rehab partnership

Unilever

Posted at Jan 11 2019 01:40 PM

What was once a coconut refining mill over 90 years ago -- Unilever's landmark facility along Estero de Paco -- still stands today. 

One of the 47 tributaries of Pasig River, Estero de Paco, proved to be a strategic location as it was the main logistical route for raw materials and finished products around the markets of the Port of Manila. 

Over the years, Unilever Philippines bore witness to Pasig River's rise to be a center for transportation, culture, and economy. 

With the rapid urban growth and the resulting mismanagement of waste, the Pasig River began deteriorating in the 1960s. Decades later, what was once a mighty river that served as a hub for tourism, recreation, and commerce was declared dead. 

Restoration through partnerships

With the goal of bringing the river back to life, the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC) ran numerous projects and programs centered on waste management and public awareness.

"We envision Pasig River and its surrounding basins to be resilient, life-sustaining ecosystems able to support diverse human needs and biodiversity toward inclusive, harmonized, and balanced development co-managed by competent and adaptive institutions with responsible and empowered communities," said Jose Antonio Goitia, Executive Director of PRRC. 

Estero de Concordia, Manila (Before) Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC)

Estero de Concordia, Manila (After) Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC)

Estero de Paco (Before) Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC)

Estero de Paco (After) Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC)

Estero de Paco, Manila (Before) Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC)

Estero de Paco, Manila (After) Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC)

Estero de San Miguel, Manila (Before) Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC)

Estero de San Miguel, Manila (After) Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC)

Estero de Santibañez, Manila (Before) Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC)

Estero de Santibañez, Manila (After) Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC)

The century-old heritage of Unilever Philippines is deeply intertwined with that of Pasig River and the company found itself with the opportunity to take an active role in partnership with PRRC. 

"Unilever was one of the first companies in the area to establish a water treatment plant within its facilities, thus promoting water reuse and achieving zero waste water discharge," said Ed Sunico, vice president for Sustainable Business and Communications of Unilever Philippines. 

"The Pasig River and its adjacent communities remain a critical part of our local Sustainable Living Plan as it supports our pledge to reduce our environmental impact and increase our social impact, as we grow the business," he added.

Responding to the greater global challenge of plastic waste leakage into waterways, Unilever has prioritized environmental sustainability in its agenda with its pledge to shift to reusable, recyclable, or compostable packaging by 2025. The company also continues to explore and invest in new technologies to recycle sachets. 

To embed the practice of segregation and educate consumers on their waste footprint, Unilever runs a sachet recovery program called "Surf Misis Walastik," where they incentivize residents from barangays close to the tributaries of Pasig River to turn over their flexible plastics in exchange for Unilever products. 

In 2018, they have been able to collect over 300 metric tons of plastic sachets, part of which was intended for conversion to thousands of upcycled chairs to be donated to public schools through the Villar SIPAG Foundation.

"We remain hopeful that our programs, sustained by the efforts of partner communities, and supported by PRRC and local governments, will help restore Pasig River as it was when Unilever started over 90 years ago," said Sunico. 

The Pasig River received the top recognition in the first Asia River prize conferred by the International River Foundation in October this year.

Unilever Philippines Vice President for Sustainable Business and Communications Ed Sunico (fifth from left, top row) is joined by other members of the public and private sector at the PRRC TAGA-ALOG event

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