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Climate action challenges

Our challenges for this topic are listed below. Please read all the information – if you feel your technical solution could help us meet one of our challenges, we’d love to hear from you.

Illustration of a worker setting up a solar panel

Renewable energy transition

Overview

Unilever is committed to sustainable practices and reducing our carbon footprint, we recognise the critical role of renewable energy in combatting climate change. In this challenge, we invite innovators, researchers, and entrepreneurs to collaborate with us in accelerating the transition to renewable energy sources. Our goal is to discover innovative solutions that will help Unilever and the broader community embrace renewable energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create a greener future.

Main requirements

We are seeking proposals that meet the following key requirements:

  • Renewable energy solutions: Innovations should focus on viable and scalable renewable energy solutions, such as solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, or other innovative technologies.
  • Energy efficiency: Submissions must consider energy efficiency in their proposed solutions, promoting responsible energy consumption practices.
  • Sustainability and reliability: Proposed renewable energy sources should be sustainable and reliable, capable of meeting energy demands consistently.
  • Scalability: Solutions should have the potential for large-scale implementation, enabling significant renewable energy adoption.
  • Carbon emission reduction: We are interested in projects that clearly demonstrate an impact on reducing carbon emissions.

Desired outcome

The desired outcomes of this challenge include:

  • Renewable energy integration: Development and implementation of innovative renewable energy solutions that are seamlessly integrated into Unilever's operations and value chain.
  • Carbon footprint reduction: Adoption of renewable energy sources to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change.
  • Sustainable energy practices: Promotion of responsible energy consumption and the establishment of sustainable energy practices within Unilever and the wider community.
  • Collaboration for sustainability: Partnership opportunities with selected participants to collaborate with Unilever in scaling up renewable energy initiatives and achieving our sustainability goals. Partnership with third parties to drive further impact through unlocking co-investment.

What we are not interested in

While we encourage a diverse range of proposals, we are not interested in solutions that do not meet the following criteria:

  • Non-renewable solutions: Projects that do not focus on renewable energy sources, rely on fossil fuels or other non-renewable resources.
  • Unreliable technologies: Proposals involving renewable energy sources that are not reliable or consistent in meeting energy demands.
  • Limited impact solutions: Projects that lack the potential for significant scalability or do not contribute substantially to reducing carbon emissions.
  • Unsustainable practices: Submissions that do not prioritise sustainability or consider the broader environmental impact.

Renewable Energy Transition – Send an application

Carbon capture and utilisation (CCU)

Overview

In this challenge, we invite innovators, researchers, and entrepreneurs worldwide to collaborate with us on finding ground-breaking solutions for carbon capture and utilisation. Our aim is to discover sustainable and scalable investment opportunities in CCU to help us achieve our target to replace fossil-fuel-derived carbon with renewable or recycled carbon in all our cleaning and laundry product formulations by 2030 but also help diversify our sourcing of agricultural commodities.

Main requirements

We are seeking proposals that meet the following key requirements:

  • Carbon capture technology: Innovations should focus on efficient and effective carbon capture technologies that can capture emissions from industrial processes, power plants, or other sources.
  • Utilisation pathways: Proposed solutions should include viable pathways for utilising the captured emissions, either through conversion into valuable products, incorporation into materials, or other sustainable applications.
  • Scalability: Submissions should demonstrate the potential for large-scale implementation, enabling significant carbon capture and utilisation impact across various industries.
  • Environmental impact: Solutions must showcase a clear commitment to sustainability, promoting a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and environmental preservation.
  • Economic viability: The proposed technologies should have feasible economic models, enabling cost-effectiveness and commercial viability.

Desired outcome

The desired outcomes of this challenge include:

  • Carbon reduction: Development of effective carbon capture and utilisation technologies to contribute to the reduction of GHG emissions and combat climate change.
  • Circular economy advancement: Integration of carbon into circular economy models, fostering resource efficiency and minimising waste generation.
  • Innovative applications: Identification of novel pathways for carbon utilisation, leading to the creation of valuable products or materials.
  • Collaboration opportunities: Collaboration with selected participants to further develop and implement the proposed carbon capture and utilisation solutions in partnership with Unilever's research and development teams. Partnership with third parties to drive further impact through unlocking co-investment.

What we are not interested in

  • Non-sustainable solutions: Technologies that do not align with sustainability principles or have a negative impact on the environment.
  • Limited scalability: Solutions that are not feasible for large-scale deployment and do not have the potential to create significant positive impact.
  • High resource consumption: Technologies that require excessive resources or result in other environmental burdens.
  • Single-purpose solutions: Proposals lacking viable pathways for utilising the captured CO2 or that focus solely on carbon capture without utilisation.

Carbon capture and utilisation – Send an application

Non-animal-derived alternatives (such as dairy)

Overview

Animal-derived products, such as dairy, are a key ingredient for many of our brands. Methane emissions from agriculture, mostly from ruminant digestion and manure, are now equivalent to 42% of human-caused methane emissions. Hence, we are seeking innovative solutions to reduce our reliance on animal-derived ingredients, specifically in the dairy sector. In this challenge, we invite researchers and entrepreneurs to collaborate with us in developing non-animal-derived alternatives for dairy products but also meat products.

Main Requirements

We are looking for proposals that meet the following key requirements:

  • Sustainability and ethics: Innovations should prioritise sustainability and ethics, offering alternatives that have a lower environmental impact.
  • Nutritional value: Submissions must ensure that non-animal-derived alternatives provide comparable nutritional value to traditional dairy and meat products, meeting consumers' dietary needs.
  • Taste and texture: Proposed alternatives should deliver an exceptional taste and texture, appealing to consumers and encouraging widespread adoption.
  • Scalability: Solutions should have the potential for large-scale production to meet market demand and achieve broad availability.
  • Health and safety: We are interested in alternatives that meet rigorous health and safety standards, ensuring consumer well-being.

Desired outcome

The desired outcomes of this challenge include:

  • Sustainable dairy alternatives: Development of innovative and sustainable non-animal-derived alternatives for dairy products, reducing the environmental impact of the dairy or meat industry.
  • Consumer adoption: Creation of dairy or meat alternatives that resonate with consumers, driving increased adoption and market demand.
  • Collaboration opportunities: Partnership opportunities with selected participants to collaborate with Unilever's research and development teams in developing and scaling non-animal-derived alternatives. Partnership with third parties to drive further impact through unlocking co-investment.

What we are not interested in

  1. Limited sustainability: Alternatives that do not demonstrate a clear commitment to sustainability and have a higher environmental impact than traditional dairy or meat.
  2. Inferior nutrition: Dairy or meat alternatives that do not meet nutritional requirements or fail to offer comparable health benefits.
  3. Lack of viability: Solutions that are not feasible for large-scale production or are not viable in the market.
  4. Unethical practices: Submissions that involve unethical sourcing concerns.

Non-animal-derived alternatives – Send an application

Biotechnology for sustainable ingredients

Overview

As a company committed to sustainability and innovation, we are seeking to revolutionise the sourcing of ingredients used in our products. In this challenge, we invite innovators, researchers, and entrepreneurs worldwide to collaborate with us in harnessing the power of biotechnology to develop sustainable and eco-friendly ingredients.

Our goal is to discover cutting-edge solutions that drive positive environmental impact while delivering high-quality ingredients for Unilever's diverse range of consumer goods. Our target to halve the greenhouse gas (GHG) impact of our products per consumer use by 2030 is dependent on a reduction in the consumer use emissions associated with our products.

Main requirements

We are looking for proposals that meet the following key requirements:

  • Sustainable sourcing: Innovations should focus on sustainable sourcing of ingredients, utilising biotechnology to reduce the environmental footprint of raw material procurement.
  • Biotechnological advancements: Submissions must leverage biotechnological methods, such as fermentation, genetic engineering, or synthetic biology, to produce ingredients with improved sustainability profiles.
  • Safety and quality: Proposed ingredients should meet strict safety and quality standards, ensuring they are suitable for use in consumer products.
  • Scalability: Solutions should have the potential for large-scale production to meet Unilever's ingredient supply demands.
  • Positive environmental impact: Submissions must demonstrate clear benefits in terms of reduced greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity preservation, and overall environmental sustainability.

Desired outcome: The desired outcomes of this challenge include:

  • Sustainable sourcing solutions: Development of innovative biotechnological methods that enable the sourcing of sustainable ingredients, minimising environmental impact.
  • High-quality ingredients: Identification of ingredients that meet or surpass Unilever's quality standards, ensuring consumer satisfaction.
  • Positive environmental contribution: Adoption of biotechnological approaches that significantly contribute to both biodiversity conservation and water conservation.
  • Partnerships for growth: Collaboration opportunities with selected participants to further develop and implement sustainable ingredient solutions alongside Unilever's research and development teams. Partnership with third parties to drive further impact through unlocking co-investment.

What we are not interested in

  1. Non-sustainable solutions: Ingredient sourcing methods that do not prioritise sustainability or have adverse environmental impacts.
  2. Unsafe or unproven technologies: Biotechnological approaches that raise safety concerns or lack sufficient data to support their viability.
  3. Limited scalability: Solutions that are not feasible for large-scale production to meet Unilever's ingredient supply requirements.
  4. Incompatibility with quality standards: Ingredients that do not meet Unilever's strict safety and quality standards for consumer products.

Biotechnology for sustainable ingredients – Send an application

Stable salt hydrates

Overview

Detergent powders use soluble salts heavily as part of their composition. There is a need to reduce chemicals used in the composition. This can be potentially achieved by including higher levels of water without impacting physical properties of detergent powder.

Main Requirements

  • Water soluble salt hydrates that have significant amount of water associated with them (at least 50% by weight)
  • Stability: raw material, in detergent powder and under high temperature and humidity
  • Commercially viable process to make salt hydrates with good scalability (e.g. with right layering aids and processing steps)
  • Cost of salt hydrate should be similar to current salts used in detergent powders

Desired Outcome

  • Detergent powders with significantly high level of water without any issues in processing and shelf life
  • Feasibility of inclusion across different powder processing routes

What we are not interested in

  • Ingredients and impurities in materials with Safety concerns
  • Already known gelling polymers and insoluble materials

Stable salt hydrates challenge: send an application

Tough Stain Removal

Overview

We are seeking new technologies that are aligned to our cleaner choices agenda to meet consumer need of removal of tough stains such as collar & cuff soil and cooking oil stains with reduced effort.

Main Requirements

  • Weight and Cost efficient technologies that are compatible in powder detergent formulations
  • Biodegradable materials

Desired Outcome

  • Consumer perceivable differences in stain removal (as demonstrated in a consumer test)

What we are not interested in

  • Known technologies (known surfactant mixtures, enzymes, polymers, etc)
  • Technologies that have safety concerns
  • Not compatible with detergent formulations

Tough Stain Removal challenge: send an application

Solutions to reduce energy consumption in ice cream frozen cabinets

Background:

Unilever is the largest Ice Cream manufacturer in the world, with over a billion smiles delivered every year in over 40 countries. Every day, millions of consumers choose our products from the frozen cabinets in the local baker, at a beach kiosk, or in a convenience store. These frozen cabinets keep our ice cream perfect for consumption, but also represent the largest part of our greenhouse gas footprint, due the energy required to maintain ice cream frozen at -18oC. We are looking for solutions to lower the energy use per cabinet while maintaining the required ice cream quality.

Description & Key Features:

We are looking for cost-effective solutions to reduce the energy consumption in ice cream frozen cabinets - horizontal, vertical, and scooping models are all in scope.

Example of areas of interest where we are seeking solutions include:

1.1: Improvements to energy use in vapour compression refrigeration systems and low-carbon alternatives to vapour compression

1.2: Insulation materials for body of frozen cabinet

1.3: Insulation films for transparent cabinet lid

1.4: any other cost-effective solutions that can contribute to reduce the energy consumption in ice cream frozen cabinets

Desired Outcome (include preferred collaboration types here) :

Unilever is open to a range of collaboration types however proof of concept is required, and preference is given to technology that has moved towards commercialization.

Solutions to reduce energy consumption in ice cream frozen cabinets: send an application

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