Unilever invites ‘disruptive’ sustainable innovators to join its collaboration initiative

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Successful applicants would have the chance to kickstart innovation projects with a number of leading Unilever brands, including Dove, Rexona and Love, Beauty & Planet [Image: Getty Images]
Successful applicants would have the chance to kickstart innovation projects with a number of leading Unilever brands, including Dove, Rexona and Love, Beauty & Planet [Image: Getty Images]

Related tags Unilever Sustainability startups Indie beauty sustainable beauty Sustainable packaging biodegradable Collaboration

Personal care major Unilever has widened the call for startups, scaleups and entrepreneurs to engage with its collaboration initiative, inviting those specialised in sustainable ingredients and packaging to join.

Launched in September last year,​ Unilever’s collaboration platform ‘Positive Beauty Growth’ had been designed to drive next-generation in-house innovation across its portfolio of brands via collaborations with innovative startups, scaleups and entrepreneurs. Its first call to team up with those specialised in social commerce had drawn in 300+ applications, leading to the shortlisting of 33 businesses that were now kicking off pilot projects with leading Unilever brands worldwide.

The beauty and personal care major now wanted to engage with companies and individuals with expertise in next-generation biodegradable and sustainable ingredients and packaging. Submissions for those interested in joining would close on April 11, 2022.

Creating sustainable ‘breakthroughs’

“We’re creating the next generation of technologies and ingredients for our beauty and personal care products that are not only highly effective, but also natural and sustainable,”​ said Richard Slater, chief research and development officer at Unilever.

“Collaborating with disruptive new players in this space is going to lead to even more breakthroughs as we grow our business and portfolio for a future where people and planet can thrive together,”​ Slater said.

Baz Saidieh, global head of the Unilever Foundry – the company’s collaborative innovation network, said startup-led partnerships were an important pillar to growth at Unilever.

“The Positive Beauty Growth is proving a catalyst of finding the greatest startup innovations and powering experimentation at scale,”​ Saidieh said.

“For our latest challenge, we’re keen to engage and explore partnerships with innovators developing biodegradable and sustainable ingredients and packaging for the future – something we know is increasingly important to people around the world. If this call-out is half as successful as our last challenge, we should be in for some stunning collaborations.”

Aligning with Unilever’s ‘people and planet’ goals

Unilever had a raft of environmental pledges and goals outlined for the years to come, including securing a deforestation-free supply chain by 2023, making all product formulations biodegradable by 2030 and slashing use of virgin plastic in half by 2025​. Innovation and new product development in biodegradable, sustainable ingredients and packaging was therefore key in advancing these goals.

More recently, the personal care major announced the split of its global operations into five distinct business units​, breaking up its largest division beauty and personal care. The goal of this restructure, it said, was to create a more category-focused company and propel growth. It would also ensure more “crystal-clear accountability”,​ according to company CEO Alan Jope.

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