Unilever commits to removing fossil fuels from cleaning products

Carbon Rainbow: initiative aims to use renewable or recycled carbon
Carbon Rainbow: initiative aims to use renewable or recycled carbon

Initiative affects Persil, Sunlight, Cif and Domestos.

Unilever, the owner of Dove, Marmite and Knorr, is set to source 100% of the carbon in its cleaning and laundry product formulations with renewable or recycled carbon.

The company has allotted €1bn (£889m) to change the sources of the carbon used in its products through its self-styled "Carbon Rainbow", which outlines how non-renewable fossil sources of carbon will be replaced by four different types of carbon: captured CO2; plants and biological sources; marine sources such as algae; and carbon recovered from waste materials.

Through this initiative, the company aims to reduce the carbon footprint of its product formulations by up to 20% across its cleaning and laundry products, which include Persil, Sunlight, Cif and Domestos.

The announcement comes as part of Unilever’s Clean Future initiative – an innovation programme by the company’s home care division that aims to change the way cleaning and laundry products are created, manufactured and packaged.

“Clean Future is our vision to radically overhaul our business,” Peter ter Kulve, president of home care at Unilever, said.

“As an industry, we must break our dependence on fossil fuels, including as a raw material for our products.” 

Unilever noted that most cleaning and laundry products contain a non-renewable source of carbon, with its own brands in this category making up 46% of the company's total carbon footprint.

Speaking to the Financial Times, ter Kulve claimed the cleaning sector was facing a “diesel moment”, indicating that fossil fuels have caused more pollution than once believed.

“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,” he said.

This comes alongside Unilever’s €1bn Climate and Nature fund, which aims to reduce the impact of climate change throughout its production and distribution processes.

It also coincides with Unilever’s pledge to reach net zero emissions across all its products by 2039.

In July, rival Procter & Gamble announced a commitment to become carbon neutral this decade, in partnership with Conservation International and the WWF.

Tanya Steele, chief executive of WWF UK, said: “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.”

Yesterday (1 September), Unilever announced that it had acquired Liquid IV – a California-based health-science nutrition and wellness company.

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