Foaming up Sustainably
Unilever Invests in Developing Palm Oil Alternatives
Together with the US biotechnology company Genomatica (Geno), Unilever has launched an initiative to develop an alternative to palm oil. They plan to use biotechnology to develop an alternative plant-based ingredient that can then be scaled up and commercialised. The two partners say they are investing 120 million US dollars in the project and more investors are expected to join the initiative.
Cutting Carbon Emissions by 50 Per Cent
Palm oil is used to produce surfactants, an essential ingredient that creates foam and removes dirt in cleaning and personal care products. There are currently few alternatives to palm oil or fossil-based materials that can be processed on a large scale. Unilever believes a newly developed ingredient could potentially strengthen supply chains by creating cost-effective alternatives and reducing dependence on a small number of volatile raw materials. Initial assessments estimate that using an alternative plant-based raw material could reduce carbon emissions by as much as 50 per cent.
According to the companies, Geno is already beginning to scale up its technological process for producing this proprietary ingredient. The company has developed a fermentation process that uses sugar to convert microorganisms into an ingredient for producing surfactants.
According to Unilever, which is one of the world's largest soap and detergent manufacturers, this is the largest investment in biotech alternatives to palm oil to date. The company has committed to achieving a deforestation-free palm oil supply chain by 2023.