Geno and Unilever launch $120m venture to expand alternatives to palm oil and fossil fuels


  • Using Geno’s cutting-edge biotechnology, the company aims to commercialize and scale up plant-based alternatives to raw materials such as palm oil or fossil fuels to produce key ingredients used in everyday cleaning and personal care products.
  • Unilever’s investment, which backs the first company, also marks the company’s largest collaboration to date on biotech alternatives to palm oil.
  • The company aims to provide a highly effective and sustainable alternative to serve the $625 billion combined home and personal care markets.

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

With a combined investment of $120 million in the newly formed initiative and with other strategic investors expected to join, the company will develop an alternative plant-based component using biotechnology. The innovation is particularly relevant for cleaning and personal care products that need ingredients to remove scum and dirt. But currently there are few viable alternatives to palm and fossil sources that can be mass-produced to produce these materials. As such, the Company offers an opportunity to tap into the $625 billion combined home and personal care market. For Unilever, one of the world’s largest soap and detergent manufacturers, this is the largest investment in biotechnological alternatives to palm oil to date.

Companies like Unilever, whose products are used daily by 3.4 billion people worldwide, are increasingly partnering with biotechnology innovators like Geno to research, develop and manufacture new versions of traditional starting materials. Hm. While palm oil will continue to be a key raw material for Unilever, these alternative materials could play an increasing role in diversifying supply chains to promote versatility, sustainability, cost-efficiency and transparency.

Geno will deploy its proven biotechnology platform and is already rolling out the process for its advanced technology to manufacture the material. Preliminary estimates have shown that companies using this technology-driven, plant-based alternative can reduce the carbon footprint of palm-derived ingredients by up to 50%.

Richard Slater, Unilever’s Chief R&D Officer said:

“Biotechnology has the potential to revolutionize how we source our cleaning ingredients and ensure Unilever is a sustainable company – for consumers, shareholders and the planet for all of us. This new company will sit at the intersection of science and sustainability, meaning we can continue to grow our business without having to rely solely on palm oil or fossil fuel derivatives, while adding flexibility to our supply chains with access to ingredient options.

“We will unite science and nature to ensure there is no compromise between the effectiveness and sustainability of their products for our consumers. We are building this innovative new company to drive real impact and change in our industry. funded to reinvent the chemistry of home and personal care products for the 21st century.”

Zeno CEO Christoph Schilling said:
“Geno’s collaboration with Unilever builds on its long-standing track record of working with market leaders committed to accelerating the commercialization of sustainable materials in their industries – from clothing to cleaning supplies. developed our technology in response to the climate crisis and we have proven that biotechnology can replace traditional production methods with bio-based sources to produce materials that offer both high performance and sustainability at scale.

“Our technology enables ways to alternatively source materials whose supply chains often have limited social and environmental transparency, and provide a more resilient supply chain that is transparent, traceable and responsibly sourced as demanded by consumers. In addition to creating a new transparent and responsible supply chain and materials from alternative sources, our genotechnology also offers the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100 million tons in the years to come.”

About Genomatica (Geno)
Zeno uses biology to redesign everyday products and materials made by and for the planet. In response to the immediate climate crisis, Geno is developing and expanding sustainable materials derived from plant-based or waste-based feedstocks instead of fossil fuels. Manufactured over the past 20 years, Geno’s technology now powers materials and materials in everything from cosmetics, carpets to household cleaning, apparel and other applications.

Geno harnesses the power of biotechnology to convert raw plant materials into the chemical building blocks that are key components of widely used materials. Zeno has developed a strong track record of working with market leaders including:

  • Lululemon Athletica (NASDAQ:LULU) in a multi-year collaboration with Geno to bring bio-based ingredients from renewable sources to Lululemon’s products. It is Lululemon’s first investment in a sustainable materials company and Geno’s largest partnership in the retail industry.
  • Novamont commercializes bio-based BDOs on a large scale.
  • Covestro AG (OTCMKTS:COVTY) on the successful production of significant quantities of HMDA, a plant-based version used in more durable coatings.
  • Asahi Kasei (OTCMKTS: AHKSY) to commercialize plant-based nylon 6,6 made from Geno’s bio-based HMD.
  • Cargill-Helm (Qore) has licensed Geno’s BDO process technology and leverages Cargill’s expertise in global raw material supply and fermentation manufacturing for the volume production and distribution of BDO.

To learn more, visit

About Unilever
Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of beauty and personal care products, home care products and food and refreshment products with sales in more than 190 countries and 3.4 billion people who use the products every day. We have 148,000 employees and sales of €52.4 billion in 2021. More than half of our footprint is in developing and emerging countries. We have almost 400 brands in homes around the world – including world-renowned brands like Dove, Lifebuoy, Knorr, Magnum, OMO and Surf; and other brands such as Love Beauty and Planet, Hourglass, Seventh Generation and The Vegetarian Butcher.

Our vision is to become the global leader in sustainable business and to show how our purpose-driven, future-proof business model excels. We have a long tradition as a progressive, responsible company. Dating back to the days of our founder, William Lever, who launched the world’s first all-purpose brand, Sunlight Soap, more than 100 years ago, it is central to how we run our business today.

Unilever Compass, our sustainable business strategy, aims to help us deliver excellence and drive sustainable and responsible growth while:

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

While much work remains to be done, we are proud to have had a “Triple A” position in S&P’s Dow Jones Sustainability Index, CDP’s Climate, Water and Forest Benchmarks for the past year and to have been named one of the best companies . In the Globescan/Sustainability Sustainability Leaders Survey for the 11th consecutive year.

For more information about Unilever and our brands, visit

1 Source: Euromonitor

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