Global consumer goods giant Unilever and US biotech company Genomatica (Geno) have launched a venture to develop alternatives to palm oil and fossil fuel-derived cleansing ingredients, Unilever announced.

Using Geno’s biotechnology, the partnership aims to commercialise and scale plant-based alternative feedstocks to make key ingredients used in everyday cleaning and personal care products, the company said in the 16 June statement.

With US$120M jointly invested in the venture, it marks Unilever’s largest collaboration in biotechnology alternatives to palm oil to date, the company said.

“Biotechnology has the potential to revolutionise the sourcing of our cleansing ingredients… 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,” Unilever’s chief R&D officer Richard Slater said.

While palm oil would remain an important feedstock to Unilever, new alternative ingredients could play a growing role in diversifying supply chains, the company said.

San Diego-based Genomatica develops and scales sustainable materials from plant or waste-based feedstocks as alternatives to fossil fuel sources.