Published 1 year ago.
About a 3 minute read.
Image: Rodnae Productions/Pexels
The partnership aims to commercialize and scale more sustainable alternatives to palm oil and fossil-fuel-derived cleansing ingredients — the current industry
standard in everyday cleaning and personal care products.
Today, Unilever and Geno (fka Genomatica)
— a leader in sustainable biotech solutions — launched a venture to scale and
commercialize alternatives to palm oil and fossil-fuel-derived cleansing
ingredients. These ubiquitous ingredients are integral to the formulations of
thousands of everyday cleaning and personal care products. With growing demand
for sustainably sourced palm
this venture aims to deliver additional responsibly sourced palm oil
alternatives to the market.
With $120 million jointly invested in the initiative and other strategic
investors expected to join, the venture will develop a plant-based palm oil
alternative. This is particularly relevant to cleaning and personal care
products that require ingredients to lather and lift dirt. But at present, there
are few viable alternatives to environmentally and socially destructive palm and
fossil-fuel-derived ingredients that can be produced at scale in order to make
those ingredients. As such, the venture offers the opportunity to tap into the
combined $625 billion home and personal care markets. For Unilever, one of the
world’s biggest soap and detergent manufacturers, this is the largest investment
in biotechnology alternatives to palm oil to date.
“Biotechnology has the potential to revolutionize the sourcing of our cleansing
ingredients and ensure Unilever is a future-fit business — for consumers,
shareholders and the planet we all share,” said Unilever’s Chief R&D Officer
Richard Slater. “This new venture will sit at the intersection of science
and sustainability, meaning we can continue to grow our business without relying
only on palm oil or fossil fuel derivatives, and at the same time make our
supply chains more resilient through having access to ingredient alternatives.
We will be marrying science and nature to make sure there is no tradeoff for our
consumers between the efficacy and sustainability of their products. We are
building this innovative new venture to have the scale to drive real impact and
change in our industry, reinventing the chemistry of home and personal care
products for the 21st century.”
Geno’s biotechnology converts plant-based raw materials into chemical building
blocks that are key components of widely used materials; it has partnered with
companies over the years to deliver plant-based alternative feedstocks for a
number of industries — recent collaborations with
are working to scale bio-based nylon textiles. For the project with Unilever,
Geno is already starting to scale the process for its advanced technology to
produce the ingredients. Beyond creating a newly transparent supply chain,
initial estimates have shown that companies could reduce the carbon footprint of
palm-derived ingredients by up to 50 percent with this technology-driven,
“Geno’s collaboration with Unilever builds upon its strong track record of
partnering with market leaders who are committed to accelerating the
commercialization of sustainable materials in their industries — from clothing
to now cleaning ingredients,” says Geno CEO Christophe Schilling. “We’ve
proven that biotechnology can replace traditional production methods to produce
ingredients with bio-based sources that deliver both high-performance and
sustainability, at scale.
“Our technology enables pathways for alternative sourcing of materials whose
supply chains often have limited social and environmental transparency, by
offering more resilient supply chains that are transparent, traceable and
responsibly sourced — as demanded by consumers. Beyond creating new transparent
and responsibly sourced-supply chains and alternatively sourced materials, our
Geno technology also represents the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
by 100 million tons in upcoming years.”
Meanwhile, Unilever has been partnering with biotech innovators to develop
sustainable alternatives to palm oil for years: In 2013, it teamed up with
to develop Solazyme Tailored™ Algal Oil, which replaced palm oil in a number
of Unilever products — including its best-selling Lux (Caress)
While palm oil will remain an important feedstock to Unilever, these alternative
ingredients play a growing role in diversifying supply chains to drive
optionality, sustainability, transparency and cost management.
Published Jun 16, 2022 2pm EDT / 11am PDT / 7pm BST / 8pm CEST