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Unilever Commits to Cutting Fossil Fuels From Cleaning Products

Unilever Commits to Cutting Fossil Fuels From Cleaning Products
02 September 2020 | Updated 09 September 2020
 

Unilever is to spend €1bn removing fossil fuels from its product range, including brands such as Persil, Surf, Lux, Domestos, and Sunlight.

They have pledged to make the transition by 2030, removing petrochemicals and chemicals made from fossil fuel feedstocks in favour of plant-based ingredients.

The measures are part of the company’s overall plan to reduce their carbon footprint, 46 per cent of which is created by the chemicals used in its cleaning and laundry products.  Unilever expects this initiative to reduce the carbon footprint of its products by up to 20 per cent.

Peter ter Kulve, President of Unilever’s €11bn homecare unit, told the Financial Times that this represented a “diesel moment” for the cleaning sector.

 

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

–Peter ter Kulve

President, Unilever’s Homecare Unit

 

A “Diesel Moment” for the Cleaning Sector

 

According to the FT’s report, Unilever will look for some plant-based alternatives for their consumer products, such as rhamnolipid. They will also look to investigate surfactants that are made from plastic waste.

The move is part of Unilever’s Clean Future initiative of reaching net-zero emissions from its products by 2039.

In an official statement on Unilever’s website, ter Kulve explained:

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

“We’ve seen unprecedented demand for our cleaning products in recent months and we are incredibly proud to play our part, helping to keep people safe in the fight against COVID-19. But that should not be a reason for complacency. We cannot let ourselves become distracted from the environmental crises that our world – our home – is facing. Pollution. Destruction of natural habitats. The climate emergency. This is the home we share, and we have a responsibility to protect it.”

 

What Does This Mean for the Commercial Cleaning Sector?

 

"In the UK, we sell both Cif and Domestos commercially. At this point in time, when professional cleaning products play such a critical role in supporting the recovery of the hospitality industry, it has never been more important to make our products better for the planet."

–Anshul Asawa

General Manager, Unilever Professionals

Environmental pledges from multinational consumer producers such as Unilever are partly in response to customer demand for greener cleaning solutions, and commercial clients may demand similar from their suppliers.

ThisWeekinFM approached Unilever for an official comment regarding its plans for its commercial cleaning products. Anshul Asawa, General Manager Unilever Professionals, said:

"In the UK, we sell both Cif and Domestos commercially. At this point in time, when professional cleaning products play such a critical role in supporting the recovery of the hospitality industry, it has never been more important to make our products better for the planet.

"Our Clean Future commitment will enable us to deliver the same cleaning power, at the same accessible prices, whilst transforming our portfolio away from using fossil fuel-derived chemicals in our formulations, to using renewable and recycled sources of carbon.

Particularly in light of COVID-19, facilities managers are concerned with wanting to ensure their building’s users are aware of the protective hygiene standards in place. Any cleaning or disinfection products used will have an inevitable environmental and health impact.

Dr Rachel Dick, Associate at Rider Levett Bucknall and TWinFM Editorial Advisory Board member, commented back in July that her clients were becoming increasingly concerned with balancing their environmental responsibilities with keeping their buildings safe:

"There is a big challenge facing offices reopening, and this goes beyond space planning and social distancing. Companies must play their part in slowing the spread of communicable diseases in areas of high contact, whilst at the same time not compromise their Corporate Social Responsibility aims. 

“This can be achieved in the form of selecting products which do not cause harm to the environment. This is a conversation I'm having with many of my clients currently, both within the public and private sector. Businesses are very concerned about ensuring the workspace is operational, but they also want to meet and achieve their environmental commitments." 

Picture: A photograph of a gloved hand using a plastic bottle of cleaning product with a trigger spray

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 02 September 2020

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