Featured case: Unilever Production Cluster in Tula: Zero
Non-hazardous Waste to Landfill in Ten Months

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The case

unilever Who – the protagonist

Konstantin Voytikov, Director of the Unilever production cluster in Tula, Russia.


After a merger of a Dutch margarine producer and a British soap maker in 1930, the Unilever group of companies was founded.

Unilever has since turned into a global giant, selling annually 170 billion units of fast-moving consumer goods, which range from ice cream to home care products. Unilever has more than 400 brands on its books, including Lipton and Dove.

Employing 169,000 people and boasting a turnover of €52.7 billion in 2016, Unilever operates in 190 countries, with Russia becoming one of those in 1992.


Attending a meeting with top management in Moscow, Konstantin was told by Unilever then-Chief Supply Chain Officer, Pier Luigi Sigismondi, that all company production sites worldwide must eliminate completely the shipment of non-hazardous waste to landfill, in line with the company’s objectives stated in its Sustainable Living Plan, five years prior to the original commitment date detailed in the Plan (moved from 2020 to 2015).

Faced with closure if his two Tula plants didn’t comply, Konstantin had to quickly come up with a plan to stop his sites from producing almost 50% of the company’s production non-hazardous waste in Russia.


Konstantin was informed of Unilever’s expectations in February 2014, and had only until the end of that year to deliver.


Situated just under 200km south of Moscow, Tula is an industrial city and administrative centre of Tula Oblast (Province). The city has a population of around 500,000.

Key quote

“The most important thing is a top management commitment. When your employees see that you’re not only declaring ideas and putting them on the company’s website, but that you live by them and implement them, they become inspired, they look for the most effective solutions and want to do their job better today than they did yesterday.” – Konstantin Voytikov, Director of the Tula Unilever production cluster.

What next?

At the next board meeting in Moscow, after various working group and management meetings back in Tula, Konstantin presented two options to solve the non-hazardous waste issue, in the hope of having additional budget allocated.

To Konstantin’s shock, the head office were reluctant to provide much financial help, leading to an increase in operation expenses having to be covered by savings, and increasing the efficiency of the plants’ operations.

Thinking about the team meeting the next day on his way back from Moscow, Konstantin was considering what questions needed to be asked in order to find an appropriate solution that would make the ambitious project achievable.

The author


Andrey Shapenko

Andrey explains the advantages of case series’ and field research.

Speaking from experience

Andrey said: “When I was a management student myself, I always liked case series, as they helped to make natural breaks during a case discussion, and to trace how the story evolved with time.

“I believe there is a great value for learners by comparing their answers with a real solution, which was implemented by a protagonist. So in this particular situation I decided to introduce a challenge in Case A, and to demonstrate an actual solution in Case B.”

Spotting an opportunityunilever

He commented: “Unilever pays a lot of attention to promoting sustainability, so for me it was very easy to receive the company's support in writing the case, accessing the protagonist, visiting the factory and obtaining additional information.

“Originally, the case was written specifically for SKOLKOVO’s open enrollment programme 'Sustainable Development: building a sustainable business model in Russia'. Given the importance of increasing awareness of sustainability issues in Russia, Unilever provided a lot of support to the programme, including openness to the case writing initiative.”

Support from above

He added: “When a company is open, it helps a lot. A good case is not about praising the company, but about examining the challenge, and it is not possible to do it without transparency and support from them.”

Making the case for field research

Andrey concluded: “I do not really believe in cases that are written based on open sources unless they relate to learning a theory or a numerical skill e.g. macroeconomics, accounting.

“When you deal with management issues, there's always a lot of hidden aspects that are not always available to the wider audience.

“In many cases, you come to an interview with an initial idea about what the case will be about, and go out with a very different one because there were so many very personal insights.

“A good case is always a story of a hero, and it is impossible to write this story without talking to him or her.”

About the author

Andrey Shapenko is Professor of Business Practice at Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO, Russia.


Interested in finding out more?

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Unilever Production Cluster in Tula: Zero Non-hazardous Waste to Landfill in Ten Months (Case A)
Ref 617-0035-1
Unilever Production Cluster in Tula: Zero Non-hazardous Waste to Landfill in Ten Months (Case B)
Ref 617-0035-1B
Teaching note
Ref 617-0035-8

These cases were written with the support of a case writing scholarship from The Case Centre.


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