Unilever has pledged to eliminate fossil fuel-based ingredients from its cleaning products by 2030. As part of a €1 billion Clean Future initiative that also aims to help the company cut the use of virgin plastic in half, the company plans to replace all of the fossil fuel-based carbon in its cleaning products with renewable or recycled carbon. This is part of the company’s commitment to eliminate carbon emissions from its products by 2039 and develop renewable or recycled alternatives to chemicals derived from the oil industry.

Almost half of the carbon footprint of the company’s cleaning products is from oil-based ingredients, so by investing in green alternatives, it expects to reduce their environmental impact by up to 20 per cent. The investment in research and development for eco-products is in addition to the €1bn Unilever has already committed over the next decade for environmental projects that will improve the ‘health of the planet’. It has also pledged to reduce the amount of plastic waste that its products generate. However, the company hasn’t set a goal for replacing fossil-based carbon in personal-care products.

The company is using a system which it calls a ‘carbon rainbow’ to colour-code sources of carbon. Unilever is currently working with a company that makes surfactants, an ingredient used to help wash away dirt, to source it from plastic waste wherein the plastic is broken down into its original components and then reprocessed into a biodegradable surfactant. Other new sources that are being explored include captured carbon which the company is beginning to use as a source of soda ash (another ingredient in detergent) and palm oil-based chemicals. Other ingredients will come from plants, algae and bacteria.

Peter ter Kulve, Unilever’s president of home care, says, ‘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.’