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Clean Future one year on: how innovation is driving growth


As we continue our efforts to reimagine the future of cleaning, we look at how some of the advances we’re making are delivering for people, the planet and our business.

Two young children with mud on their hands, kneeling on the ground and planting seedlings into the earth from plastic pots.

In September last year, we launched our €1 billion Clean Future innovation strategy to fundamentally change the way our cleaning and laundry products are created, manufactured and packaged. And at its heart is the ambition to replace ingredients derived from fossil fuels with alternatives from renewable or recycled sources by 2030.

As Peter ter Kulve, President of our Home Care division, said at the launch: “Clean Future is our vision to radically overhaul our business. 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.”

Eliminating virgin fossil fuels from our formulations is better for the planet, better for consumers and better for our business. And we’re already seeing strong evidence of how this focus on sustainability is delivering in all three areas.

Our cleanest, greenest laundry products

To coincide with the Clean Future announcement, we relaunched our biggest laundry brand OMO – also known as Persil, Skip, Breeze, Ala, Surf Excel and Rinso, depending on where you live in the world – with its cleanest, greenest products yet. The formulation now contains plant-based stain removers, which we call ‘green carbon’. What’s more, the bottles are made with a minimum of 50% recycled plastic and are 100% recyclable. In some markets, we reduced our plastic by 75%. Furthermore, OMO is advocating to move the industry away from animal testing and has deployed digital programmes to power up youngsters to act for a better world.

The launch will be rolled out in all our Dirt Is Good brands – which are available in over 80 markets worldwide – and it’s already proving a popular choice for consumers, with record brand power scores. The initiative has also been recognised by WARC as the winner of the WARC Gold and Sustainability Awards for Most Effective Purposeful Campaign.

Tougher on stains and kinder to the world

Dilutable detergent proving a hit in Latin America

OMO also launched our first dilute at home laundry detergent. Using the same concept as Cif ecorefill, the 6x concentrated formula is designed to be poured into a standard 3 litre bottle. The packaging uses 70% less plastic than a 3 litre bottle, is fully recyclable and contains 50% recycled plastic.

First launched in Brazil, the innovation proved an instant hit with consumers. So much so, we have now also rolled it out to other countries in Latin America, including Argentina and Chile. All while reducing plastic by 1,400 tons and transportation CO2 emissions by 83%.

OMO leads the capsules market in China

Consumers want products that are both more sustainable and more convenient and simpler to use, which is why our laundry capsules continue to increase in popularity. In 2018, we launched the format in China. The launch was a success and this year OMO capsules were ranked No.1 brand in retail and No.2 in e-commerce in China.

Earlier this year, we also launched the world’s first laundry capsule made using recycled carbon emissions. Through a pioneering new process, we’re capturing waste gases from a steel mill – before it reaches the atmosphere – and turning it into a cleaning ingredient.

The limited-edition capsules were first launched on JD and Tmall – which are China’s two leading e-commerce sites – followed by a Clean Future campaign, which resulted in over 300 million media impressions, with OMO capsules also having exceptional sales growth on both sites.

Quix's new bottle

It’s brilliant to see all these innovations landing so positively with consumers around the world. Our Clean Future journey is well underway and, while there’s a lot still to do, the results so far show that demand is there.

Jon Hague, our VP for Science and Technology, who leads the Clean Future programme

The world’s first biosurfactant

When it comes to surfactants – a key cleaning ingredient that creates foam and allows products to work by breaking down oil, grease and soil – there are few sustainable alternatives out there. Working with a leading biotech firm, we created Rhamnolipids – a first-of-its kind for household cleaning products – made from naturally occurring fermentation and which is 100% biodegradable and renewable.

We’re pioneering large-scale production of this ingredient and, since the initial launch in Chile, we have also now rolled it out in our Sunlight brand in Vietnam.

Lifebuoy setting new standards with BotaniTech

In our new Covid reality, home hygiene has become a priority for us all and it’s a trend that seems to be here to stay. But not only are consumers in most markets cleaning more frequently than before, they are also becoming more discerning about what’s in the products they use and the effect they may have on the health of people and the planet.

To meet demand from consumers seeking disinfectants that will help keep them safe, while at the same time being kinder to them and the planet, Lifebuoy has developed Unilever’s first pH-neutral disinfectant. The BotaniTech range includes a multi-surface cleaner and eco-refill, a general cleaner, antibacterial wipes and an aerosol.

We have launched the range in the UK, Germany, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore and we’re currently rolling it out to more markets globally. With naturally derived cleaning ingredients, formulas that are 100% biodegradable and 100% recyclable packaging, the BotaniTech range aims to set a new standard in the aisles.

Creating a cleaner future… for all

Jon Hague, our VP for Science and Technology, who leads the Clean Future programme, says of the progress: “It’s brilliant to see all these innovations landing so positively with consumers around the world. Our Clean Future journey is well underway and, while there’s a lot still to do, the results so far show that demand is there – people are seeking out products that are better for them, their home and their families. And that’s what we’ve committed to deliver: for everyone, everywhere, within every budget.”

Lifebuoy products display
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