Today, Genomatica (Geno), a leader in biotechnology and sustainability, and Unilever have launched a company to develop and commercialize alternatives to palm oil and cleaning ingredients derived from fossil fuels. These ingredients are an integral part of the formulations of thousands of daily cleaning and personal care products. Faced with the growing demand for palm oil of sustainable origin, this initiative aims to offer on the market additional alternatives to palm oil of responsible origin.
With $120 million invested jointly in this newly created initiative, and other strategic investors expected to join it, the company will develop an alternative plant-based ingredient using biotechnology. Innovation is especially relevant for cleaning and personal care products that require ingredients to foam and remove dirt. However, at present, there are few viable alternatives to fins and fossil sources that can be produced on a large scale to make these ingredients. As a result, the company offers the opportunity to tap into the combined $625 billion markets for cleaning and personal care products. For Unilever, one of the world's largest soap and detergent manufacturers, this is the largest investment to date in biotech alternatives to palm oil.
Companies like Unilever, whose products are used every day by 3.4 billion people around the world, are increasingly partnering with biotech innovators like Geno to explore, develop and manufacture new versions of ingredients of traditional origin. While palm oil will remain an important raw material for Unilever, these alternative ingredients can play an increasing role in diversifying supply chains to promote affordability, sustainability, profitability and transparency.
Geno will deploy its proven biotechnology platform and is already starting to scale the process of its advanced technology to produce the ingredients. Early estimates have shown that companies could reduce the carbon footprint of palm-derived ingredients by up to 50% with this technology-based plant-based alternative.
Richard Slater, Unilever's Head of R&D, said:
"Biotechnology has the potential to revolutionise the supply of our cleaning ingredients and make Unilever a forward-looking company – for consumers, shareholders and the planet we all share. This new venture will be at the intersection of science and sustainability, which means we can continue to grow our business without relying solely on palm oil or fossil fuel derivatives, while making our supply chains more resilient through access to alternative ingredients.
We will marry science and nature to ensure that our consumers do not compromise between the effectiveness and sustainability of their products. We are building this innovative new company to have the scale to make a real impact and change in our industry, helping to reinvent the chemistry of cleaning and personal care products for the 21st century. »
Christophe Schilling, CEO of Geno, said:
"Geno's collaboration with Unilever builds on its strong track record of partnering with market leaders who are committed to accelerating the commercialization of sustainable materials in their industries – from apparel to cleaning ingredients now. We have developed our technology in response to our planet's urgent climate crisis and have proven that biotechnology can replace traditional production methods to produce ingredients from organic sources that offer both high performance and sustainability, at scale.
Our technology enables alternative supply routes for materials whose supply chains often have limited social and environmental transparency, offering more resilient supply chains that are transparent, traceable and responsibly sourced as demanded by consumers. Beyond creating new transparent and responsible supply chains and alternative sourcing materials, our Geno technology also represents the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100 million tonnes in the coming years. »