Unilever Announces Plan To Eliminate Fossil Fuels In Cleaning Products By 2030
Consumer goods giant Unilever has announced plans to switch to 100% renewable or recycled sources of carbon for its cleaning and laundry product formulations by 2030.
The initiative, a core component of Unilever’s ‘Clean Future’ programme, is set to transform the sustainability of the company’s cleaning and laundry brands including Omo (Persil), Sunlight, Cif and Domestos.
The chemicals used in Unilever’s cleaning and laundry products constitute the highest proportion of its carbon footprint (46%).
The company expects to reduce the carbon footprint of the product formulations by up to 20% through this initiative, and unlock novel ways of reducing the carbon footprint of some of the world’s biggest cleaning and laundry brands.
President of Home Care at Unilever, Peter ter Kulve, commented, “We’ve seen unprecedented demand for our cleaning products in recent months and we are incredibly proud to play our part, helping to keep people safe in the fight against COVID-19.
“But that should not be a reason for complacency. We cannot let ourselves become distracted from the environmental crises that our world – our home – is facing. Pollution. Destruction of natural habitats. The climate emergency. This is the home we share, and we have a responsibility to protect it.”
Clean Future Programme
Unilever’s Clean Future programme aims to embed the principles of the circular economy into both packaging and product formulations at the scale of global brands to reduce their carbon footprint.
The company will invest €1 billion in the programme to finance biotechnology research, CO2 and waste utilisation, and low carbon chemistry to drive the transition from fossil fuel-derived chemicals.
The money will also be used to develop biodegradable and water-efficient product formulations, cut the use of virgin plastic by half by 2025, and support the development of brand communications that make these technologies appealing to consumers.
The Clean Future investment, which is additional to Unilever’s new €1 billion ‘Climate and Nature fund’, will focus on creating affordable cleaning and laundry products that deliver superior cleaning results with a significantly lower environmental impact.
Kulve added, “Clean Future is our vision to radically overhaul our business. As an industry, we must break our dependence on fossil fuels, including as a raw material for our products.
“We must stop pumping carbon from under the ground when there is ample carbon on and above the ground if we can learn to utilise it at scale.”
Clean Future is already supporting industry-leading projects around the world to transform the production of chemicals in Unilever’s cleaning and laundry products.
The company has partnered with biotechnology leader Evonik Industries in Slovakia for the production of rhamnolipids, a renewable and biodegradable surfactant which is already used in its Sunlight dishwashing liquid in Chile and Vietnam.
In Tuticorin in Southern India, Unilever is sourcing soda ash – an ingredient in laundry powders – from a pioneering CO2 capture technology.
The company aims to scale up both technologies in India and Slovakia under the programme.
'Affordable Sustainable Products'
Kulve said, “A new bio-economy is rising from the ashes of fossil fuels. We’ve heard time and time again that people want more affordable sustainable products that are just as good as conventional ones.
“Rapid developments in science and technology are allowing us to do this, with the promise of exciting new benefits for the people who use our products, from ultra-mild cleaning ingredients to self-cleaning clothes and surfaces.”
The Clean Future programme revolves around Unilever’s ‘Carbon Rainbow’ model, which is a novel approach to diversify the carbon used in its product formulations.
It will see the company replacing non-renewable fossil sources of carbon (identified in the Carbon Rainbow as black carbon) with captured CO2 (purple carbon), plants and biological sources (green carbon), marine sources such as algae (blue carbon), and carbon recovered from waste materials (grey carbon).
Tanya Steele, chief executive of WWF UK said, “The world must shift away from fossil fuels towards renewable resources that reduce pressure on our fragile ecosystems and that help to restore nature.
“These significant commitments from Unilever, combined with strong sustainable sourcing, have real potential to make an important contribution as we transition to an economy that works with nature, not against it.”