Unilever Plc says it will invest 1 billion euros ($1.2bn) to eliminate fossil fuels from its cleaning products by 2030, cutting down on carbon emissions created by the chemicals used in making the products.
The household goods conglomerate behind the Omo, Cif (also marketed as Jif), Sunlight and Domestos (Vim) brands said that, instead of petrochemicals, the company would substitute constituents created from plants and other biological sources, marine sources such as algae and waste materials, in its products.
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Chemicals used in its cleaning and laundry products make up 46 percent of the company’s Home Care division’s carbon emissions across their lifecycle, and the switch will cut those emissions by a fifth. Unilever said it is the first company to commit to such a switch.
Unilever’s total greenhouse gas footprint is about 100 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents globally.
The Anglo-Dutch maker of Dove soap and Knorr soup is currently facing unprecedented demand for cleaning products in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
It reported in July that Cif surface cleaners and Domestos bleach sales jumped in the double-digits in the first half of 2020.
‘Stop pumping carbon’
“People want more affordable sustainable products that are just as good as conventional ones,” Peter ter Kulve, Unilever’s president of Home Care said.
“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 added.
Unilever aims to reduce carbon emissions from its own operations and its suppliers to zero by 2039, a plan that is 11 years ahead of a deadline enshrined in the 2015 Paris Agreement on combating global warming.
This year CDP, a global non-profit carbon disclosure group, ranked Unilever as one of only seven out of 182 major companies to achieve an A rating for environment-friendly governance in the three categories of climate change, water and forests.
Unilever said the 1-billion-euro ($1.2bn) investment would be used to finance biotechnology research and carbon dioxide utilisation, and create biodegradable and water-efficient product formulations.
New products under its Persil brand, reformulated to use plant-based stain removers, will appear on UK supermarket shelves from this month, it added.