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Unilever to invest €100,000 in a crowdsourced solution as part of its drive to rethink plastic packaging

Unilever will develop and pilot a plastic-free laundry solution to combat single-use sachets. The solution was developed during a one-day hackathon which gathered leading designers, innovators and packaging experts.

Team work

LONDON - Unilever, manufacturer of leading household brands including Persil, CIF and Domestos, has announced that it will invest €100,000 in a new plastic-free laundry tablet. The crowdsourced innovation has the potential to replace single-use sachets of laundry powder, a popular format for laundry detergents in the developing world that is problematic in terms of plastic waste.

The chosen idea was one of 10 new solutions to emerge from Unilever’s “Rethink Plastic” Hackathon, a one-day event that brought together Unilever teams with leading designers, innovators, venture capital and packaging experts. The Hackathon was hosted in partnership with One Young World, the premier global forum that connects young leaders to create lasting positive change around the world, and A Plastic Planet, an international campaign with a single goal to ignite and inspire the world to turn off the plastic tap.

The winning concept, an innovative laundry tablet, aims to replace the billions of single-use laundry sachets sold every year to provide an affordable solution for low-income consumers in developing markets. The innovation resides in an affordable plant-derived coating that protects each tablet against humidity, one of the main reasons for using plastic packaging in the first place. The tablet will be further developed before being trialled in a suitable market.

Kees Kruythoff, President of Unilever Home Care, said: “The scale of the plastic waste issue is getting worse, not better, with the production of plastics expected to double over the next decade. Addressing this issue is the shared responsibility of all stakeholders in the value chain. However, as a major player in the consumer goods industry, we are aware that our response is critical in setting the pace of change. This hackathon is part of our broader work with leading experts and innovators to redesign our packaging and work with the wider industry to accelerate the systemic change that is so urgently needed.”

Commenting on the Hackathon, Kate Robertson, Co-founder of One Young World said: “The impact of plastic waste on our planet is disastrous; we need to highlight the importance of creating plastic-free solutions that can be replicated across industries and markets. This hackathon is a great example of where innovative young leaders are able to showcase their abilities in bringing solutions to the table and utilising the power businesses hold in implementing change. I am really excited by the plastic free laundry detergent, along with all of the ideas from this Hackathon.”

Sian Sutherland, Co-founder of A Plastic Planet added: "The fact that a huge multinational like Unilever is taking the issue of plastic pollution and solutions seriously is a strong message to all industry worldwide. Those businesses that do not seek to change and reduce their plastic usage will not survive." All the innovations from the event were open-source, to maximise potential market opportunities and help scale up impact. Other highly-commended solutions included a detergent subscription model using attractive ceramic or glass bottles, and ‘Laundry on a roll’, dissolvable sheets of fabric detergent that are convenient and environmentally friendly. Unilever teams will further explore all ideas submitted on the day.

This investment is part of a series of efforts taken by Unilever to reduce its plastic footprint globally. In 2017, the company made an industry-leading commitment to ensure that all its plastic packaging will be designed to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. To help create an end market for this material, the company also committed to increase the recycled plastic content in its packaging to at least 25% by 2025. These targets are driving real change in the business – in particular how packaging is designed for recyclability and reuse.

In the UK, Unilever is a signatory to the UK Plastic Pact, a unique pact between governments, businesses, local authorities, NGOs and citizens to tackle plastic waste and transform the UK’s plastics system.

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Where relevant, these actions are subject to the appropriate consultations and approvals.

This announcement may contain forward-looking statements, including 'forward-looking statements' within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Words such as 'will', 'aim', 'expects', 'anticipates', 'intends', 'looks', 'believes', 'vision', or the negative of these terms and other similar expressions of future performance or results, and their negatives, are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based upon current expectations and assumptions regarding anticipated developments and other factors affecting the Unilever Group (the 'Group'). They are not historical facts, nor are they guarantees of future performance.

Because these forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, there are important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Among other risks and uncertainties, the material or principal factors which could cause actual results to differ materially are: Unilever's global brands not meeting consumer preferences; Unilever's ability to innovate and remain competitive; Unilever's investment choices in its portfolio management; inability to find sustainable solutions to support long-term growth; the effect of climate change on Unilever's business; customer relationships; the recruitment and retention of talented employees; disruptions in our supply chain; the cost of raw materials and commodities; the production of safe and high quality products; secure and reliable IT infrastructure; successful execution of acquisitions, divestitures and business transformation projects; economic and political risks and natural disasters; financial risks; failure to meet high and ethical standards; and managing regulatory, tax and legal matters. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this announcement. Except as required by any applicable law or regulation, the Group expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statements contained herein to reflect any change in the Group's expectations with regard thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any such statement is based. Further details of potential risks and uncertainties affecting the Group are described in the Group's filings with the London Stock Exchange, Euronext Amsterdam and the US Securities and Exchange Commission, including in the Annual Report on Form 20-F 2017 and the Unilever Annual Report and Accounts 2017.

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