UNILEVER has become one of the first major international firms to invest in Cuba, beginning work to build a US$35m factory in collaboration with Cuban-based home and personal care products company Suchel.
The facility will make home and personal care products, with brands including Sedal, Rexona, Omo, Lux and Close-Up. It is being constructed in the Mariel Special Development Zone, an industrial area about 40 km from the Cuban capital Havana, set up in 2013 to attract overseas investment, industry and technology, as part of wider efforts to stabilise the Cuban economy. The facility will cover around 40,000 m2 and is expected to begin operations in 2018. Unilever CEO Paul Polman laid the first foundation stone, at a ceremony attended by Cuban industry minister Salvador Pardo Cruz.
Unilever says that the factory will include a water treatment plant, to allow water to be reused for irrigation or discharged to the environment, and a highly efficient steam system which will reduce CO2 emissions. These features have been introduced as part of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan, which was launched in 2010 and outlines its goals in environmental and social responsibilities. These include halving the environmental impact of its products by 2030 and helping 1bn people improve their health and wellbeing by 2020.
“The aspiration to relaunch Unilever in Cuba is now a reality, and key to our business strategy in Latin America and the Caribbean. We will soon be producing the highest quality products from our world-famous brands locally,” said Miguel Kozuszok, executive vice-president of Unilever Latin America and South Cone.
In recent years, Cuba, a communist country once very hostile to outside investment, has become increasingly open, thanks largely to the efforts of president Raúl Castro to reform the struggling economy since he took office in 2008. In July 2015, Castro and his US counterpart Barack Obama announced the resumption of full diplomatic relations between the two countries after 54 years of tension.
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