Shaikh Ahmad is accompanied by Sanjiv Kakkar (left), Unilever’s executive vice-president for North Africa, Middle East, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, and Unilever CEO Paul Polman (right), during the inauguration of the personal care manufacturing plant at Dubai Industrial Park yesterday. Image Credit: Atiq-ur-Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: Unilever’s Dh1 billion production plant in Dubai Industrial Park (DIP) will help make ‘Made in the UAE’ a hallmark of quality, the consumer goods giant’s chief executive officer said.

Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates airline and Group, officially opened the 100,000 square metre factory, capable of an annual production of 100,000 tonnes of liquid personal care products a year, on Wednesday.

Unilever CEO Paul Polman said the plant would export 80 to 85 per cent of its production.

“This is very important for a region that has decided, increasingly more so, to diversify itself out of oil and to think about a future that is prosperous for future generations,” he said.

Polman added: “There is no doubt that this is a great location. We have about 500 factories in the world and at any given time we are building 20 to 25, but we do take care in where we put them.

“Here you have a region that has a first-class infrastructure, is highly competitive, more importantly a strategic location, trade agreements and a region with enormous potential.

“I think the brand ‘Made in the UAE’ as a label will increasingly become important, and there is no doubt in my mind that the high-quality products that will come off the factory line will be the envy of the industry and hopefully embrace a lot more consumers.”

Abdullah Bel Houl, CEO of Dubai Wholesale City, agreed. The Unilever plant — and the 108 other factories under construction or being designed for DIP — would ensure ‘Made in the UAE’ reassuring people “that the products they consume have been manufactured to the highest global standards,” he said.

Sanjib Kakkar, Unilever’s executive vice-president for North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, praised the plant’s accident-free construction process and rapid construction time — it was built in just 547 days, beating earlier predictions that it would be completed in 2017.

Kakkar said the personal care liquids plant — Unilever’s largest in the Mena region in terms of size and production capacity — would cut Unilever’s market response times for brands such as Dove, Clear and Vaseline by 80 per cent.

“We hope to set a benchmark for the future in terms of manufacturing in the UAE and Dubai,” he said.

A video presentation at the inauguration ceremony indicated that the plant would be able to convert to producing new lines in seven days.

Polman said the factory is also the largest private solar production facility in the region, producing 2MW of solar power, enough to supply 400 homes, and recycles all its water, in line with the company’s sustainable living plan.

“Our commitment is very simply to have a positive footprint in the world — a world where you have enormous issues like food security, or climate change, or the geopolitical conflicts that we see in this region.

“I find it quite normal that companies move out of their CSR [corporate social responsibility] space of basically being less bad to an environment where they have a positive footprint, where they actually positively address the issues. “Otherwise, as I’ve mentioned many times before we’ll see a lot more of these results like the recent elections in the US or Brexit in the UK or many other things that we’re currently dealing with.

“People are demanding that the private sector plays a more responsible role. Our commitment is to decouple our environmental footprint from our growth.”