Geno and Unilever launch $120m venture to develop alternative to palm oil and fossil fuels

  • Using Geno’s advanced biotechnology, the company aims to commercialize and scale plant-based alternatives to raw materials such as palm oil or fossil fuels, to manufacture key ingredients used in health products. daily cleaning and personal care.
  • The investment from Unilever, which is the first to back the company, also marks the company’s largest collaboration in biotech alternatives to palm oil to date.
  • The company is poised to offer a highly effective and sustainable alternative that can be offered to the combined $625 billion home care and personal care markets.

SAN DIEGO and LONDON, June 16, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Today, Genomatica (Geno), a leader in biotechnology and sustainability, and Unilever launched a company to develop and commercialize alternatives to palm oil and fossil fuel-derived cleaning ingredients . These are an integral part of the formulations of thousands of everyday cleaning and personal care products. With growing demand for sustainably sourced palm oil, this company aims to bring additional alternatives to responsibly sourced palm oil to the market.

With $120 million jointly invested in the newly formed initiative, and with other strategic investors expected to join, the company will develop an alternative plant-based ingredient using biotechnology. The innovation is particularly relevant for cleaning and personal care products that require ingredients to lather and lift dirt. But right now, there are few viable alternatives to palm and fossil sources that can be produced on a large scale to make these ingredients. As such, the company offers the opportunity to tap into the combined $625 billion home care and personal care markets. For Unilever, one of the world’s largest soap and detergent makers, this is the biggest investment yet in biotech alternatives to palm oil.

Companies like Unilever, whose products are used by 3.4 billion people around the world every day, are increasingly partnering with biotech innovators like Geno to explore, develop and manufacture new versions of organic ingredients. traditional origin. While palm oil will remain an important raw material for Unilever, these alternative ingredients can play an increasing role in diversifying supply chains to drive optionality, sustainability, profitability and transparency.

Geno will deploy its proven biotechnology platform and is already beginning to scale the process of its cutting-edge technology to produce the ingredients. Early estimates have shown that companies could reduce the carbon footprint of palm-derived ingredients by up to 50% with this plant-based technological alternative.

Unilever R&D Director Richard Slater said:

“Biotechnology has the potential to revolutionize the sourcing of our cleaning ingredients and ensure that Unilever is a forward-looking company – for consumers, shareholders and the planet we all share. This new venture will stand at the intersection of science and sustainability, meaning we can continue to grow our business without relying solely on palm oil or fossil fuel derivatives, while making our supply chains more resilient through access to alternative ingredients.

“We will marry science and nature to ensure that there is no trade-off for our consumers between the efficacy and sustainability of their products. We are building this new innovative company to have the scale necessary to generate real impact and change in our industry, helping to reinvent home and personal care product chemistry for the 21st century.”

Christophe Schilling, CEO of Geno said:Geno’s collaboration with Unilever builds on its strong track record of partnering with market leaders who are committed to accelerating the commercialization of sustainable materials in their industries – from clothing to cleaning ingredients. We developed our technology in response to our planet’s urgent climate crisis and have 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 opens up alternative sourcing routes for materials whose supply chains often have limited social and environmental transparency, delivering more resilient supply chains that are transparent, traceable and responsibly sourced as required. Beyond creating new transparent and responsible sourcing chains and materials of alternative origin, our Geno technology also represents the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100 million tonnes in years to come.”

About Genomatica (Geno)Geno harnesses biology to recreate 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-based or waste feedstocks instead of fossil fuels. Geno’s technology, built over the past 20 years, now drives materials and ingredients in applications ranging from cosmetics, 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. Geno has developed a solid experience in partnering with market leaders, including:

  • lululemon athletica (NASDAQ: LULU) in a multi-year collaboration with Geno to integrate bio-based, renewable materials into lululemon products. This is lululemon’s first-ever equity investment in a sustainable materials company and Geno’s largest retail partnership.
  • Novamont markets bio-based BDO on a large scale.
  • Covestro AG (OTCMKTS: COVTY) to successfully produce large volumes of a plant-based version of HMDA, used in more durable coatings.
  • Asahi Kasei (OTCMKTS: AHKSY) to market plant-based nylon 6.6 made from Geno’s bio-based HMD.
  • Cargill-Helm (Qore) has licensed BDO process technology from Geno and is using Cargill’s global raw material sourcing and fermentation manufacturing expertise to initially produce and distribute BDO at scale.

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About UnileverUnilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of beauty and personal care, home care, and food and refreshment products, with sales in more than 190 countries and products used by 3.4 billion people every day . We have 148,000 employees and generated revenue of €52.4 billion in 2021. More than half of our footprint is in developing and emerging markets. We have around 400 brands in homes around the world, including iconic global brands like Dove, Life buoy, KnorrMagnum, OMO and surfing; and other brands such as Love Beauty & Planet, Hourglass, Seventh Generation and The Vegetarian Butcher.

Our vision is to be the global leader in sustainable business and to demonstrate how our forward-looking, future-oriented business model drives superior performance. We have a long tradition of progressive and responsible business. It dates back to the days of our founder William Lever, who launched the world’s first useful brand, Sunlight Soap, over 100 years ago, and it’s at the heart of how we run our business today. .

Unilever Compass, our sustainable business strategy, is designed to help us deliver superior performance and drive sustainable and responsible growth, while:

  • improve the health of the planet;
  • improve people’s health, confidence and well-being; and
  • contribute to a fairer and more socially inclusive world.

While much remains to be done, over the past year we are proud to have achieved sector leadership in S&P’s Dow Jones Sustainability Index, “Triple A” status in the CDP’s Climate, Water and Forests benchmark and being named as the top-ranked company. in the GlobeScan/SustainAbility Sustainability Leaders survey, for the eleventh consecutive year.

For more information about Unilever and our brands, please visit

1 Source: Euromonitor

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