2 September 2020 – We’re replacing 100% of the carbon derived from fossil fuels in our cleaning and laundry product formulations with renewable or recycled carbon. This move is set to transform the sustainability of global cleaning and laundry brands, including our portfolio in the Philippines.
This new ambition is a core component of ‘Clean Future’, a ground-breaking innovation programme designed by our Home Care division to fundamentally change the way that some of the world’s best-known cleaning and laundry products are created, manufactured and packaged.
Unilever’s Clean Future
The first initiative of its scale, Clean Future is a critical step towards our pledge of net zero emissions from our products by 2039, announced in June 2020. Clean Future embeds circular economy principles into both packaging and product formulations at the scale of global brands to reduce our carbon footprint.
The chemicals used in our cleaning and laundry products make up the greatest proportion of carbon footprint (46%) across their lifecycle. Therefore, by transitioning away from fossil fuel-derived chemicals in product formulations, we will unlock novel ways of reducing the carbon footprint of some of the world’s biggest cleaning and laundry brands. We expect this initiative alone to reduce the carbon footprint of the product formulations by up to 20%. We are deliberately shifting away from the fossil fuel economy, and hope that other manufacturers adopt this direction.
Peter ter Kulve, Unilever’s President of Home Care, explains: “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.”
Tanya Steele, Chief Executive of WWF UK says: “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.”
The Carbon Rainbow
Central to Clean Future is our ‘Carbon Rainbow’, a novel approach to diversify the carbon used in our product formulations. Non-renewable fossil sources of carbon (identified in the Carbon Rainbow as black carbon) will be replaced using 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). The sourcing of carbon under the Carbon Rainbow will be governed and informed by environmental impact assessments and work with our industry-leading sustainable sourcing programmes to prevent unintended pressures on land use.
€1B investment for Clean Future
We are ring-fencing €1 billion for Clean Future to finance biotechnology research, CO2 and waste utilisation, and low carbon chemistry - which will drive the transition away from fossil fuel derived chemicals. This investment will also be used to create biodegradable and water-efficient product formulations, to halve the use of virgin plastic by 2025, and support the development of brand communications.
The Clean Future investment is focused on creating affordable cleaning and laundry products that deliver superior cleaning results with a significantly lower environmental impact. Clean future is in addition to our new €1 billion ‘Climate and Nature fund’ announced mid-2020.
Clean Future already supports industry-leading projects around the world to transform how the chemicals in our cleaning and laundry products are made. One example is in Tuticorin in Southern India, where we are sourcing soda ash – an ingredient in laundry powders – made using a pioneering CO2 capture technology. The soda ash is made with the CO2 emissions from the energy used in the production process. Both technologies are hoped to be scaled significantly under the programme.
Making Sustainable Living Accessible to Filipinos
Shifting to the Philippines – with the onset of the 2020 health crisis there has been an unprecedented demand for cleaning products as communities and families struggled to cope with the pandemic. Standing in solidarity with consumers, and consistent its commitment to sustainability, Unilever joined other companies in a call for a global recovery plan that is grounded in bold climate action.
“We listen to our consumers and continue to invest in strong partnerships and superior science; and our goal has always been to deliver products that are effective, affordable, and good for the planet. While the 2030 Clean Future ambition is now starting to take shape, Unilever’s homecare brands in the Philippines have made great strides in making sustainable living commonplace to Filipinos. With all these moving at speed, we can truly achieve a clean future, “ shared Unilever Philippines Chairman and CEO Benjie Yap.
Surf operates a flagship sachet collection program across the country with Misis Walastik; Domex backs a partnership with the Department of Education for safe toilets in schools with #TogetherWeAreUnstoppable; and Breeze, Domex, Comfort, Sunlight, and Surf have started to roll out new bottle packaging made of 100% recycled material.
We are eliminating fossil fuels in cleaning products by 2030 with our €1B investment in Clean Future. Central to this is our ‘Carbon Rainbow’, a novel approach to diversify the carbon used in its product formulations.