The future of detergents has already arrived

Traditional detergent chemistry is ready for an overhaul. Biotechnology now makes it possible to reduce chemicals in detergents, eliminate phosphates, and lower wash temperatures.

With the UN Climate Change Conference less than a week away, the detergent industry is meeting up at the Copenhagen Detergent Sustainability Summit in Copenhagen to formulate the next steps toward a sustainable future for the industry.

The summit brings together all stakeholders in the detergent value chain to discuss the future of the detergent industry. At the summit, Novozymes is aiming to demonstrate how sustainability can be translated into business growth for the entire value chain.

“We believe that sustainability is a growth engine for detergent manufacturers,” says Peder Holk Nielsen, Executive Vice President for the Enzyme Business at Novozymes. “Consumers are looking for the sweet spot between green and clean – they want a sustainable, high-performing detergent at a reasonable cost. The detergent industry currently believes that replacing oil-based and phosphate-based ingredients is reserved for high-tier brands only. But biotechnology makes it possible for all detergent manufacturers to enhance performance and the sustainability profile of the detergent while stabilizing costs. This technology is not something that is only going to be available way in the future – it’s already here today! It’s available for the industry to enhance its business with.”

By replacing traditional chemical ingredients with readily biodegradable enzymes, detergent manufacturers can offer their consumers a sustainable detergent that works well at low wash temperatures to reduce the environmental impact of washing.

Looking at the whole value chain

To equip the industry with the tools to translate sustainability into increased sales and business growth, Novozymes is bringing together organizations such as WWF, Marks & Spencer, Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser, Henkel, McBride, A.I.S.E., and Whirlpool to discuss sustainability at the Summit.

“We have to look at the whole value chain to reduce carbon emissions – and to reduce the overall environmental impact of washing our clothes. Take the example of cold-water washing. Scientific assessments show that if the temperatures of all washes in Europe were turned down from 60 to 40 °C and from 40 to 30 °C, we would save 12 million tons of CO2 which corresponds to the annual emissions of 3 million cars. But unfortunately your washing machine might not go down to 30 °C. Or maybe you simply go on washing at 40 °C because you’ve always done so. Just imagine the potential if the whole value chain were to optimize in order to support cold-water washing,” says Peder Holk Nielsen.

Hans Bender, Chairman of A.I.S.E. (the International Association for soaps, detergents and maintenance products) highlighted: “Our industry has a long tradition of proactive work towards sustainability, steering best practices for the whole industry. It is only with joint efforts of both industry and consumers using our products optimally that real progress will be achieved.”