Unilever reveals $120m venture to create plant-based alternatives to palm oil derivatives

By Alessandro Carrara | Published: 16-Jun-2022

Unilever said the partnership with biotech firm Genomatica will reduce the business’ reliance on palm oil and fossil fuel-derived ingredients

Unilever has launched a US$120m joint-venture with biotech firm Genomatica to create alternative plant-based ingredients to palm oil and fossil fuel-derived cleansing substances.

Palm and fossil sources will remain 'integral’ to the creation of the consumer goods company’s cleaning and personal care products.

The new venture, however, aims to deliver additional responsibly-sourced alternatives to the market and reduce the business’ reliance on the controversial ingredients.

“Biotechnology has the potential to revolutionise 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.”

The new plant-based ingredient is being developed at a scale large enough to be seen as a viable alternative ingredient for the market, said Unilever.

“Geno’s collaboration with Unilever builds upon its strong track record of partnering with market leaders who are committed to accelerating the commercialisation of sustainable materials in their industries – from clothing to now cleaning ingredients,” said Christophe Schilling, Geno’s CEO.

“We’ve developed our technology in response to our planet’s urgent climate crisis and 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.”

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