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Unilever and Geno Launch $120MM Venture to Scale Alternative Ingredients

June 16, 2022
June 16, 2022
Tommy Cox via Unsplash

Unilever and Genomatica (Geno), a leader in biotech and sustainability, have launched a venture to scale and commercialize alternatives to palm oil and fossil fuel-derived cleansing ingredients.

WHO: Geno is harnessing biology to remake everyday products and materials built by and for the planet. In response to the urgent climate crisis, Geno is developing and scaling sustainable materials derived from plant- or waste-based feedstocks instead of fossil fuels. Its technology, built over the last 20 years, now drives materials and ingredients in applications ranging from cosmetics and carpets, to home cleaners, apparel, and more.

Geno uses the power of biotechnology to convert plant-based raw materials into chemical building blocks that are key components of widely used materials.

Dutch conglomerate Unilever PLC was incorporated on June 21, 1894. The company's segments include personal care, food, home care, and refreshments. The company operates in more than 100 countries, selling its products in more than 190 countries. Unilever owns more than 400 brands including 11 "billion-dollar brands."

WHY: With the growing demand for sustainably sourced palm oil, this venture aims to deliver additional responsibly sourced palm oil alternatives to the market. Companies like Unilever are increasingly partnering with biotechnology innovators like Geno to explore, develop, and manufacture new versions of traditionally sourced ingredients.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Unilever's Chief R&D Officer Richard Slater said, "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. 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.

"We will be marrying science and nature to make sure there is no tradeoff for our consumers between the efficacy and sustainability of their products. We are building this innovative new venture to have the scale to drive real impact and change in our industry, helping to reinvent the chemistry of home and personal care products for the 21st Century."

Christophe Schilling, Geno CEO, said, "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. 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.

"Our technology enables pathways for alternative sourcing of materials whose supply chains often have limited social and environmental transparency, by offering more resilient supply chains that are transparent, traceable and responsibly-sourced, as demanded by consumers. Beyond creating new transparent and responsibly sourced-supply chains and alternatively-sourced materials, our Geno technology also represents the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100 million tons in upcoming years."

DETAILS:

  • Uniliver and Geno jointly invested $120 million in the newly formed initiative, with other strategic investors expected to join the venture to develop alternative, plant-based ingredients using biotechnology.
  • Unilever's investment, which is the first to support the venture, also marks the company's largest collaboration in biotechnology alternatives to palm oil to date.
  • Geno will deploy its proven biotechnology platform and is already starting to scale the process for its advanced technology to produce the ingredients. Initial estimates have shown that companies could reduce the carbon footprint of palm-derived ingredients by up to 50% with this technology-driven, plant-based alternative.
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