Global consumer goods giant Unilever will invest US$1.2bn to eliminate fossil fuels in its cleaning and laundry products by 2030, the company announced on 2 September.

The Anglo-Dutch company said the move to use renewable or recycled carbon in its products would improve the sustainability of its cleaning and laundry brands including Omo (Persil), Sunlight, Cif and Domestos.

Unilever said it would replace petrochemicals with ingredients made from plants and marine sources such as algae.

The announcement was the first phase in Unilever’s ‘Clean Future’ initiative, which pledges net zero emissions from its products by 2039.

Unilever said it had ring-fenced €1bn (US$1.2bn) for Clean Future, which was supporting global projects to transform how the chemicals in its cleaning and laundry products were made.

“In Slovakia, for example, we are partnering with biotechnology leader Evonik Industries to develop the production of rhamnolipids, a renewable and biodegradable surfactant which is already used in our Sunlight dishwashing liquid in Chile and Vietnam.”

The Clean Future investment is in addition to Unilever’s new €1bn (US$1.2bn) Climate and Nature Fund.

“As an industry, we must break our dependence on fossil fuels, including as a raw material for our products,” said Unilever’s President of Home Care Peter ter Kulve.

The company said it had seen unprecedented demand for cleaning products during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People want more affordable sustainable products that are just as good as conventional ones. Rapid developments in science and technology are allowing us to do this,” ter Kulve added.

The Clean Future investment would be used to finance biotechnology research, CO² and waste utilisation and low carbon chemistry, which would drive the transition away from fossil fuel-derived chemicals.