Unilever pilots Sunlight soap made with captured carbon

Consumer products multinational Unilever says it has produced dishwashing liquid, sold under its Sunlight brand, with captured carbon emissions.

This aligns with the company’s global Clean Future strategy to eliminate carbon derived from fossil fuels in its cleaning and laundry products by 2030.

As part of a pilot project, the new formulation will be available in-stores for a limited time, and is the first dishwashing liquid in the world to be made using captured carbon emissions.

Sunlight dishwashing liquid was the first product in its category to introduce a fully recycled and recyclable bottle in 2018, and will now be the first product in the Unilever South Africa range to showcase a new formulation using this innovative component.

The captured carbon, also known as purple carbon in Unilever’s Carbon Rainbow model, has been drawn from industrial emissions, purified and recycled for use in products that currently depend on fossil fuel-based inputs, which is termed black carbon.

“Unilever is on a journey to eliminate black carbon from its cleaning and laundry products altogether, a process that is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 12 and 13,” the company says.

“Most cleaning products today make use of chemicals derived from fossil fuels, which is a non-renewable resource. Introducing purple carbon into Sunlight dishwashing liquid is a first step towards replacing this source of carbon in all of our cleaning and laundry brands worldwide,” says Unilever Home Care Africa research and development director Judisha Naidoo.

The development of purple carbon has been done in partnership with innovation partners LanzaTech and India Glycols (IGL) introducing a newly configured supply chain between the three companies and facilitating a meaningful shift in production to the use of biotechnologies.

Clean Future defines the way in which Unilever aims to embed the principles of a circular economy into both its product formulations and packaging worldwide in order to reduce their carbon footprint.

“Introducing purple carbon into Sunlight dishwashing liquid represents a deliberate shift away from the fossil fuel economy and is a critical step in our commitment to achieving net zero emissions from our products by 2039,” notes Unilever Home Care Africa VP Lethepu Matshaba.

“Clean Future gives expression to our vision of radically overhauling our business because, as an industry, we need to break our dependence on fossil fuels. There is ample carbon above the ground to use it at scale and we now have the technology to do that. It’s time to move away from extracting fossil fuels to make chemicals,” she says.

“Our planet is running out of time and how we treat carbon requires urgent revision. By working with Unilever and IGL we can turn waste carbon into an opportunity, keeping fossil fuels in the ground and enabling new circular processes to make the products we use every day,” says LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren.

“At IGL, we have always been focusing on exploring novel ways to exploit renewable resources for making specialty products for our valued customers in different sectors. We are proud to be a part of this consortium with Unilever and LanzaTech and having creating the world’s first purple surfactant to launch in market,” adds IGL chairperson and MD Uma Shankar Bhartia ji.

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