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Protect and regenerate nature 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 man holding a seedling

Regenerative agriculture and positive action on nature

Overview

As a company deeply committed to sustainability and environmental stewardship, we recognise the crucial role of regenerative agriculture as well as natural ecosystem restoration and protection in building a more resilient and thriving planet. In this challenge, we invite innovators, researchers, project developers and entrepreneurs to join forces with us in advancing regenerative practices in agriculture/agroforestry and taking positive action to restore nature's balance. Our aim is to drive transformative change in the agriculture sector and foster biodiversity conservation, soil health, and sustainable livelihoods but also to take action on restoring and protecting natural ecosystems.

Main requirements

We are seeking proposals that meet the following key requirements:

  • Regenerative agricultural practices: Innovations should focus on regenerative agriculture approaches and innovations that enhance soil health, biodiversity, and ecosystem services.
  • Positive nature action: Submissions must include positive actions to restore and protect nature, such as reforestation, habitat restoration, or wildlife conservation initiatives.
  • Community impact: Proposed solutions should promote sustainable livelihoods, support local communities, and have a positive social impact.
  • Scalability: Solutions should have the potential for large-scale implementation, contributing to meaningful change on a global level.
  • Measurable impact: We are interested in projects that can quantify and demonstrate their positive impact on biodiversity, soil health, and ecosystem restoration.

Desired outcome

The desired outcomes of this challenge include:

  • Regenerative agriculture adoption: Development and promotion of regenerative agricultural practices that enhance soil fertility, water retention, and biodiversity.
  • Positive nature impact: Implementation of positive actions to restore and protect nature, contributing to the conservation of wildlife, forests, and natural habitats.
  • Sustainable livelihoods: Promotion of sustainable livelihoods for farmers and local communities, fostering economic resilience and social well-being.
  • Collaboration for change: Partnership opportunities with selected participants to collaborate with Unilever and like-minded stakeholders in driving sustainable agriculture and nature restoration initiatives. Partnership with third parties to drive further impact through unlocking co-investment.

What we are not interested in

  • Non-regenerative practices: Solutions that do not prioritise regenerative agriculture or lack a clear focus on improving soil health and biodiversity.
  • Harmful impact on nature: Proposals that may have negative consequences for nature or biodiversity conservation.
  • Limited scalability: Projects that lack the potential for large-scale impact or cannot be replicated in diverse geographic regions.
  • Unsustainable community practices: Submissions that do not consider the well-being and social impact on local communities.

Regenerative agriculture and positive action on nature – Send an application

Plastic alternatives and transformation (plastic alternatives, recycling infrastructure)

Overview

As a company committed to environmental sustainability, we recognise the urgent need to address plastic waste and its impact on the planet. In this challenge, we invite innovators, researchers, and entrepreneurs to join forces with us in finding effective solutions to reduce plastic usage, develop sustainable alternatives, and enhance recycling infrastructure. Our mission is to drive transformative change in the plastic landscape, moving towards a circular economy and minimising plastic pollution.

Main requirements

We are seeking proposals that meet the following key requirements:

  • Plastic alternatives: Innovations should focus on sustainable alternatives to conventional single-use plastics in various product categories.
  • Recycling infrastructure: Submissions must address the improvement and optimisation of recycling infrastructure, enabling more efficient plastic waste collection, sorting, and recycling processes, in geographies where this is a challenge.
  • Circular economy approach: Proposed solutions should align with circular economy principles, emphasising the reduction, reuse, and recycling of plastic materials.
  • Environmental impact: Solutions must showcase a clear commitment to environmental sustainability, contributing to the reduction of plastic waste in the environment.
  • Scalability: We are interested in projects that have the potential for large-scale implementation to drive widespread impact.

Desired outcome

The desired outcomes of this challenge include:

  • Plastic reduction: Development of innovative and sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics, reducing plastic consumption and its environmental impact.
  • Improved recycling processes: Advancements in recycling infrastructure that enhance plastic waste collection, sorting, and recycling efficiency.
  • Circular economy implementation: Adoption of circular economy principles to enable the transformation of plastic waste into valuable resources.
  • Collaboration for change: Partnership opportunities with selected participants to collaborate with Unilever's research and development teams in implementing plastic alternatives and recycling initiatives. Partnership with third parties to drive further impact through unlocking co-investment.

What we are not interested in

  • Non-sustainable alternatives: Plastic alternatives that do not align with sustainability goals or have negative environmental impacts comparable to conventional plastics.
  • Limited impact solutions: Projects that lack potential for significant scalability or do not contribute to a substantial reduction in plastic waste.
  • Unproven recycling technologies: Recycling infrastructure proposals that lack proven efficacy or are not compatible with existing recycling systems.
  • Toxic or harmful materials: Submissions involving plastic alternatives that pose health risks or environmental hazards.

Plastic alternatives and transformation – send an application

Sustainable and natural feedstock alternatives

Overview

As a leading consumer goods company, Unilever is committed to reducing its environmental footprint and driving positive change in the industry. In this challenge, we are seeking sustainable alternatives to conventional feedstock used in our products, a deforestation-free supply chain in five of our key commodities, and replacing fossil-fuel-derived carbon with renewable or recycled carbon in all our cleaning and laundry product formulations by 2030.

Main requirements

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

  • Sustainability: Submissions should emphasise responsible sourcing and demonstrate a clear commitment to minimising negative environmental impacts throughout the feedstock's lifecycle.
  • Renewability: Proposed alternatives must be derived from renewable sources, ensuring a consistent supply without depleting finite natural resources.
  • Biodiversity protection: Solutions should actively contribute to biodiversity conservation and promote practices that safeguard ecosystems and wildlife.
  • Reduced carbon footprint: Innovations should focus on significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with feedstock production, transportation, and processing.
  • Circular economy compatibility: Feedstock alternatives must align with circular economy principles, emphasising recycling, upcycling, and minimising waste generation.

Desired outcome

Unilever aims to discover and collaborate with projects that present feasible and impactful feedstock alternatives, driving positive change in the consumer goods industry. The desired outcomes include:

  • Innovative solutions: Identification of novel, sustainable feedstock alternatives that can be integrated into Unilever's product portfolio.
  • Sustainable practices: Advancement of sustainable practices in feedstock sourcing, contributing to a greener and more environmentally friendly supply chain.
  • Positive impact: Solutions that have a significant positive impact on biodiversity, carbon emissions reduction, and overall environmental sustainability.
  • Partnerships: Collaboration opportunities with selected participants to further develop and scale the proposed solutions in collaboration 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: Feedstock alternatives that do not prioritise sustainability or have a negative impact on the environment.
  • Limited scalability: Solutions that are not feasible for large-scale production or integration into Unilever's existing product range.
  • High carbon footprint: Alternatives that do not contribute to a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional feedstock.
  • Ethical concerns: Submissions that raise ethical or biodiversity-related concerns, such as negatively impacting communities, potential harm to endangered species or fragile ecosystems.

Sustainable and natural feedstock alternatives – Send an application

Detergent Powder with no Water Insolubles

Overview

We are seeking solutions to address one of the key issues faced by consumers using detergent powder:

  • presence of insoluble residues which connote poor value and product quality.

To achieve this, we are looking at alternatives to current insoluble coating/layering aids.

Main Requirements

  • The coating/layering material should have high resistance to gain moisture from humid environment but should ideally be also be water soluble during use by consumer.
  • Cost effective, or comparable to current coating/layering technologies
  • Stable, compatible in detergent formulations
  • Ideally a formulation solution but open to processing intervention with minimal capital expenditure

Desired Outcome

  • Powder with no insolubles, good dissolution profile, good shelf life and no caking issues

What we are not interested in

  • Ingredients with Safety concerns
  • Changes to powder sensories (e.g. fragrance, dissolution, foam)

Detergent Powder with no Water Insolubles challenge: send an application

Natural Fabric Whitening Agents

Overview

In line with our cleaner choices agenda, We are seeking new technologies/materials that can be used to deliver better/comparable whiteness benefits on fabrics compared to commonly used fluorescers like DASCC*. New technologies/materials should be biodegradable and manufactured using green raw materials.

Main Requirements

  • Weight and cost efficient
  • Comparable/better performance to fluorescers
  • It should not have any gross negative on consumer fabrics (like spotting & staining)
  • Compatibility /Stability in powder detergent formulation

Desired Outcome

Material with Green chemistry and biodegradable with single wash whiteness boost as current fluorescers (DASCC)

What we are not interested in

  • Technologies that have Safety concerns
  • Non-biodegradable materials
  • Materials that are not compatible with detergent powders

* DASCC: Diamino stilbene cyanuric chloride

Natural Fabric Whitening Agents challenge: send an application

Natural Materials for Stain Removal and Hygiene

Overview

In line with our cleaner choices agenda We are seeking natural/green technologies/materials that can be used to deliver dual benefits of sodium percarbonate:

A: stain removal on bleachable stains

B: hygiene

The technology can be either from renewable sources or circular economy.

Main Requirements

  • Comparable/better performance on stain removal and hygiene to sodium percarbonate
  • Should be weight and cost efficient
  • Compatible with powder detergent

Desired Outcome

Performance established through standard lab tests (hygiene and cleaning) and consumer tests with no gross negatives

What we are not interested in

  • Materials which have Safety* concerns
  • Materials which are not biodegradable

* - E.g. non-carcinogenic, no ecotox issues, etc

Natural Materials for Stain Removal and Hygiene challenge: send an application

Natural Antioxidant(s)

Natural antioxidant(s) for improving storage stability of fragrances and actives prone to oxidation

Background:

Synthetic antioxidants such as Tinogard TT (Pentaerythrityl tetra-di-t-butly hydroxyhydrocinnamate) and Tinogard DA (didodecyl 3,3'-thiodipropionate) have been used as highly effective stabilizers to prevent degradation of actives sensitive to oxidation. They can mitigate negative impacts of oxidatively unstable actives on stability of final formulations. However, due to their synthetic nature, they are not suitable for use in natural Skin Care formulations. Some existing natural antioxidants such as tocopherol and rosemary extract come with strong odor or color profile, which introduced undesirable sensory attributes in final formulations. There is a need for natural alternative to TInogard TT and Tinogard DA antioxidants.

Description:

Natural antioxidant(s) for improving storage stability of fragrances and actives prone to oxidation. Natural antioxidant must be parity or superior in performance to Tinogard TT and Tinogard DA.

Desired Outcome:

Proof of principle studies versus Tinogard TT and Tinogard DA:

  • GC headspace data after storage for benchmark actives: sunflower seed oil & CLA
  • Color and chemical stability data after storage
  • Rancimat test

What we aren’t interested in:

  • Antioxidants with tox issue, registration issue, colour issue or odour issue
  • Antioxidants that degrade during storage stability
  • Antioxidants that act as potent antioxidants in skin but have poor efficacy in preventing actives from oxidation during formulation storage stability

Natural Antioxidants challenge - send an application

Planet positive alternatives to microplastics, silicones and mineral oils

Overview

Microplastics, silicones, and mineral oils are widely used in personal care products, but their negative impact on the environment has led to a growing demand for sustainable and planet-positive alternatives. Unilever is seeking innovative solutions for personal care products that can replace these materials with more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives.

Main Requirements

  • Ingredients that are sustainable and have a low environmental impact
  • Ingredients that can provide the same or improved performance as microplastics, silicones, and mineral oils
  • Ingredients that are compatible with existing personal care product formulations
  • Ingredients that are safe for human use and meet regulatory requirements
  • Ingredients that have a positive environmental impact throughout the entire product lifecycle
  • Ingredients that are biodegradable, fossil fuel free, natural, and vegan
  • Main ingredients of interest: acrylate polymers, linear dimethicone 200-350cts, mineral oil 70sus-200sus, microcrystalline wax, silicone elastomer

Desired Outcome

  • Development of innovative personal care products that are free from microplastics, silicones, and mineral oils
  • Improved sustainability and reduced environmental impact of personal care products.
  • Increased consumer satisfaction and loyalty for Unilever brands
  • Improved understanding of the potential for sustainable alternatives to traditional personal care ingredients
  • Ideally parity performance from a clinical and sensory standpoint
  • Stable materials with No gross negatives on colour or odour
  • Ideally offers a leverageable skin benefit over and above the replacement to justify cost unless replacement is parity cost

What we are not interested in

  • Ingredients that do not meet regulatory requirements or safety standards
  • Ingredients that have a negative environmental impact
  • Ingredients that do not provide the same or improved performance as microplastics, silicones, and mineral oils
  • Generic or existing ingredients without novel approaches to sustainable alternatives
  • Ingredients that have been tested on animals

Alternatives to microplastics, silicones and mineral oils – send an application

Natural / Bio-based UV filters to boost Sun Care efficiency with low-cost performance

Overview

Sun protection is an essential component of Beauty and Wellbeing (B&W) & Personal Care (PC), but traditional chemical-based organic sunscreens may not be sustainable & planet positive. Unilever is looking for innovative solutions for Natural / Bio-based UV filters that can enhance the sun protection efficiency with low-cost performance.

Main Requirements

  • Ingredients that can enhance the SPF rating & sensory of mineral/inorganic (& organic sunscreens) sunscreens
  • Ingredients that can provide skin care / bioactive benefits (e.g. Antioxidant)
  • Ingredients that can improve the efficiency & cost-effectiveness of SPF products
  • Ingredients that are compatible with existing personal care product formulations
  • Ingredients that are safe for human use and meet regulatory requirements
  • Ingredients that have a positive environmental impact throughout the entire product lifecycle

Desired Outcome

  • Development of innovative B&W/PC products that provide effective sun protection with enhanced efficiency and cost-effectiveness
  • Improved sustainability and reduced environmental impact of sunscreens and B&W/PC products
  • Increased consumer satisfaction and loyalty for Unilever brands
  • Improved understanding of the potential for cost-effective and sustainable alternatives to traditional sun protection ingredients

What we are not interested in

  • Ingredients that do not meet regulatory requirements or safety standards
  • Ingredients that have a negative environmental impact
  • Ingredients that do not provide enhanced efficiency or cost-effectiveness for sun protection
  • Generic or existing ingredients without novel approaches to enhancing the SPF rating of sunscreens
  • Ingredients that have been tested on animals

Natural/Bio-based UV filters – send an application

Technologies / innovations on biodegradable polymers that can be deposited from LO or WO formulations for extended hygiene benefit (i.e. residual antimicrobial kill)

Overview

As part of its commitment to sustainability and innovations for better hygiene, Unilever is looking for technologies and innovations on biodegradable polymers that can be deposited from LO or WO formulations for extended hygiene benefits, specifically residual antimicrobial kill (both bacteria and viruses) in skin cleansing.

Main Requirements

  • Biodegradable polymers that can be incorporated into LO or WO formulations without affecting the stability of the product
  • Polymers that can be deposited on the skin surface and provide residual antimicrobial activity for extended periods
  • Polymers that can be used in skin cleansing products without negatively affecting the sensory experience or cleaning efficacy of the product
  • Ingredients that are safe for human use and meet regulatory requirements
  • Polymers that are biodegradable and have a positive environmental impact throughout the entire product lifecycle

Desired Outcome

  • Development of innovative skin cleansing products that provide residual antimicrobial activity and improve overall hygiene
  • Increased sustainability of personal care products by using biodegradable polymers with a positive environmental impact
  • Increased consumer satisfaction and loyalty for Unilever brands
  • Improved understanding of the potential for cost-effective and sustainable alternatives to traditional antimicrobial agents

What we are not interested in

  • Ingredients that do not meet regulatory requirements or safety standards
  • Ingredients that have a negative environmental impact
  • Ingredients that negatively affect the sensory experience or cleaning efficacy of the product
  • Polymers that cannot be incorporated into LO or WO formulations
  • Generic or existing ingredients without novel approaches to providing residual antimicrobial activity
  • Ingredients that have been tested on animals (preferred but not mandatory)

Innovations on biodegradable polymers – send an application

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