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World-first partnership to pilot near-zero emissions laundry ingredient


Working with partners, HUL is piloting the production of synthetic soda ash – a key ingredient in laundry powder – with a near-zero greenhouse gas footprint. If proved at scale, this innovation could help unlock faster emissions reductions in our supply chain.

women hand washing

Almost 60% of our greenhouse gas (GHG) impact comes from the raw materials and ingredients we buy to make our products. In our Home Care business, which relies heavily on chemicals, this is closer to 80%.

That’s why, with a commitment to achieve net zero emissions across our value chain by 2039, we’re working with supplier partners to radically reduce our GHG impact across our value chain.

At Hindustan Unilever (HUL), where we’re collaborating with leading chemical companies TFL and Fertiglobe (the strategic partnership between OCI Global and ADNOC), to pilot the production of near-zero emissions synthetic soda ash – a key ingredient in laundry powder.

There are three elements to this pilot. The soda ash is made with some of the first green ammonia produced using green hydrogen from renewable energy. The boilers used to make the soda ash have been shifted from coal to renewable energy (cashew kernels). And the CO2 produced by the boilers is captured and used in the manufacturing process, replacing CO2 that would otherwise have to be procured.

The combination of these three elements results in the production of soda ash with a near-zero GHG footprint.

The pilot will help make enough ‘near-zero’ soda ash for about 6,000 tonnes of laundry powder.

Beyond the pilot, we have signed an agreement with TFL to supply us with low GHG soda ash made with renewable energy and CO2 capture and use, reducing GHG emissions by more than 60%.

“The pilot addresses greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of the product’s (soda ash) manufacture and we believe it is a world first,” says Deepak Subramanian, Home Care General Manager, Unilever, South Asia. “Doing this while delighting consumers with great, affordable products is at the heart of our strategy.”

This collaboration between Unilever and the chemicals sector is an example of how we’re bringing different parties in our supply chain together to achieve our net zero ambition while, at the same time, delivering benefits for our partners.

As Ashwin Muthiah, Chairman of the TFL Group, explains: “To drive the emission reductions required in the chemicals industry, we are working together to develop new technologies and processes. We’re excited to be partnering with Unilever to produce industry-leading near-zero emissions synthetic soda ash with a view to it being scaled up.”

This is echoed by Ahmed El-Hoshy, CEO of Fertiglobe and OCI Global, who adds: “This exciting development is at the forefront of the home care industry’s utilising green ammonia as an emerging decarbonisation tool. This is one of the first examples of how it can be used to reduce COemissions for an established industrial process.”

This is one of the first examples of how it can be used to reduce CO2 emissions for an established industrial process.

Addressing the challenge of value chain emissions

HUL is on track to achieve Unilever’s global target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions from our operations (known as scope 1 and 2 emissions) by 100% by 2030 (against a 2015 baseline). However, these are a small proportion of our overall emissions. The bigger part – the so-called scope 3 emissions – are those associated with the production of the raw materials and ingredients we purchase from our suppliers.

These emissions are much more difficult to tackle because they require progress of entire, often global, supply chains. As such, to reach our net zero target, we must work with our suppliers to help them take action within their own operations and value chains.

We source many of the ingredients we use locally, we’ve just started accelerating that work. At a recent event, we asked some of our key supply partners to pledge to work with us on emissions reduction by joining our global Supplier Climate Programme.

These suppliers are at different stages of their climate journey. Some have given little focus to their carbon footprint, while others have bold plans and are making substantial investments.

Through the programme, we will provide tailored support aligned with industry standards. On the one hand, through upskilling and capacity building to help them develop their emissions reduction plans, and measure and share footprint data for the products we buy. On the other, by partnering on specific technological developments with our most advanced suppliers, such as TFL.

The fact that our supplier solutions are industry aligned, rather than Unilever bespoke, means that suppliers can easily share their product footprint data with other customers – we won’t be the only ones asking them to take climate action in future.

“We will need to work with our partners to achieve our net zero goal by 2039,” says Willem Uijen, Unilever’s Chief Procurement Officer. “I’m glad to see that our partners are coming together in this event with their pledge to go after net zero emissions. I’m confident this will make a big difference in actions landed over the months to come.”

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