UK- Unilever in collaboration with biotech and sustainability company, Genomatica (Geno), has launched US$120 million venture to scale and commercialize alternatives to palm oil and fossil fuel-derived cleansing ingredients.
The newly-formed joint investment initiative, with other strategic investors expected to join, aims to develop an alternative, plant-based ingredient using biotechnology.
The innovation is particularly relevant to cleaning and personal care products that require ingredients to lather and lift dirt.
Currently, there are few viable alternatives to palm and fossil sources that can be produced at scale in order to make those ingredients.
While palm oil will remain an important feedstock to Unilever, these alternative ingredients can play a growing role in diversifying supply chains to drive optionality, sustainability, cost efficiencies, and transparency.
Geno will deploy its proven biotechnology platform and is already starting to scale the process for its advanced technology to produce the ingredients.
The company uses the power of biotechnology to convert plant-based raw materials into chemical building blocks that are key components of widely used materials.
The venture offers the opportunity to tap into the combined US$625 billion home and personal care markets.
Companies like Unilever, whose products are used globally by 3.4 billion people each day, are increasingly partnering with biotechnology innovators like Geno to explore, develop, and manufacture new versions of traditionally-sourced ingredients.
Initial estimates have shown that companies could reduce the carbon footprint of palm-derived ingredients by up to 50% with this technology-driven, plant-based alternative.
“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 Richard Slater, Unilever’s Chief R&D Officer.
“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, while also making our supply chains more resilient from having access to ingredient alternatives.”
Slater explains that the new innovation enables Unilever to have the scale to drive real impact and change in the industry, helping to reinvent the chemistry of home and personal care products for the 21st Century.
The joint venture represents Unilever’s largest investment in biotechnology alternatives to palm oil to date.
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