Unilever and Genomatica Launch $120 Million Venture to Scale Sustainable Palm Oil Alternatives

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Unilever and biotechnology company Genomatica are working together to scale and commercialize sustainable alternatives to palm oil and fossil fuel-derived cleansing ingredients. Together, they’ve launched a $120 million venture, and they’re hoping to attract more investors.

Palm oil is everywhere. It’s in food, makeup, personal care products, cleaning products, and more. It’s incredibly versatile, and among many things, can be used to make emulsifiers and detergents. But its production is harmful to the environment. The industry is one of the world’s biggest drivers of deforestation.

Most cleaning and personal care products also contain ingredients derived from petroleum, which is a fossil fuel.

That’s why demand is growing for more sustainable options. Unilever and Genomatica hope to develop plant-based alternatives to both palm oil and fossil fuel ingredients, using biotechnology.

According to Richard Slater, Unilever’s chief research and development officer, “biotechnology has the potential to revolutionize” the sourcing of the multinational’s cleansing ingredients. “[It will help to] ensure Unilever is a future-fit business,” he adds. “For consumers, shareholders, and the planet we all share.”

Unilever notes the venture represents the largest ever investment in biotechnology alternatives to palm oil. Slater says it “sits at the intersection of science and sustainability.”

Genomatica’s CEO Christophe Schilling says the partnership with Unilever builds upon the company’s “strong track record of partnering with market leaders,” adding that it will help to accelerate the commercialization of sustainable materials.

Schilling also notes that Genomatica’s biotechnology can help to create supply chains that are “transparent, traceable, and responsibly sourced.”

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