As far as sustainability is concerned, Knorr Noodles seems to be stuck halfway. There’s certainly a lot of good Unilever has done, but as far as its priorities are concerned, Unilever seems to be split between saving the planet and taking advantage of developing countries.
It was only 2 years ago that Knorr Noodle’s biggest competitor, Nestle’s Maggi Noodles, was removed from Pakistan’s markets. And while it seems like keeping Knorr Noodles on the shelves isn’t the most detrimental move to the environment, perhaps it's best that you keep its inclusion in your shopping list at a minimum. Especially when considering the health and development of everyone at home.
One of the first ingredients that jump out of the list is the infamous palm oil. Not very surprising, as more than 50% of packaged products in the world today, contain palm oil.
Palm oil, as many of us know, is one of the major drivers of deforestation around the world. However, to its credit, Unilever (Knorr’s parent company) has taken several strides to ensure more sustainable production of palm oil for its products. All of the company’s suppliers must follow its Palm Oil Sourcing Policy which also outlines Unilever’s commitment to workers' rights and as of 2019, 95% of the palm oil it uses is sustainably sourced.
From a nutritionist standpoint, there’s no denying it, the product is not the healthiest thing on the market. High in sodium and low in protein, Knorr Noodles is best kept as an intermittent snack rather than a regular staple of your child’s diet.
Of course, this review would not be complete without mentioning Knorr Noodles’s plastic packaging, which is where things get interesting.
The company has expressed its dedication to plastic reduction. By 2025, the company aims to cut the amount of virgin plastic it uses by half and wants to collect and process more plastic than it sells. These efforts are already underway, as Unilever has successfully achieved a 32% reduction in waste impact per customer since 2010. However, recently Unilever and a selection of other big companies were accused of “hypocrisy” and pushing for single-use plastics in developing countries such as India and the Philippines. I could not find any hard data on the situation in Pakistan, another developing country. However, with all things considered, I believe it’s safe to assume that the plastic produced for packaging in Pakistan is most likely not subject to sustainable parameters.
Every manufacturing process has an energy source and when it comes to Unilever’s manufacturing operations, the company has really gone well and beyond. The company’s manufacturing operations function on 100% renewable grid electricity and as of 2008, the company has achieved a 65% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from energy expenditure.
When it comes to water footprint, it should be remembered that Knorr Noodles is cooked and prepared in water. 99% of Unilever’s water footprint comes from customers’ usage of their products and so far, there have been limited achievements in reducing that footprint. However, the company has expressed its commitment to reducing the amount of water used in the making of its products.
Unilever has done much in order to establish itself as a leader in corporate sustainability. GlobalScan’s 2020 SustainAbility survey ranks Unilever as the number 1 leader in global corporate sustainability. Over the last 10 years, the company has made tremendous efforts in reducing the environmental impact of its products and committing to the UN’S Sustainable Development Goals. Projects such as Guddi Baji have worked towards empowering female workers in Pakistan while its Sukh Sehali program works towards improving female health across the nation.
But as I mentioned above, it appears that Unilever is double-minded about its approach towards sustainability. A report from last year discovered that Unilever along with other multinational companies such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi are responsible for half a million tonnes of plastic in six developing countries.