Clean clothes and a reduced environmental footprint

Audited by PwC

Novozymes’ enzymes are used in both household and industrial laundry detergents as well as automatic dishwashing detergents. For many years, enzymes have been the key to boosting the performance of detergents. Specific enzymes break down dirt and stains into water-soluble molecules that are washed away, leaving clothes and dishes clean. Today Novozymes’ detergent enzymes increasingly play a central role in replacing conventional chemicals in detergent formulations and in allowing consumers to turn down the wash temperature while maintaining the same wash performance, saving energy and reducing CO2 emissions.

Efficient reformulation and compaction

Novozymes’ research shows that formulators can now replace up to 25% of surfactants and other conventional ingredients in their formulations with efficient multienzyme solutions. The result is no loss of performance or an improved wash performance at the same or an even lower cost, while improving the environmental footprint of the detergent.

The prices of many detergent ingredients, for example surfactants, have varied widely in the past, often influenced by changes in oil prices. Bio-based solutions such as enzymes, on the other hand, have not been influenced by oil price fluctuations, and prices have remained stable.

In addition, by replacing high-volume ingredients such as surfactants with low-volume enzymes, detergents can become more compact. Compaction is a strong trend in the US, and the same trend is also becoming evident in Europe. In addition to giving consumers the convenience of smaller packages, compact detergents require less storage, transportation, and shelf space, which translates into packaging and cost savings as well as CO2 emission reductions.

Taking a value chain approach to innovation

Sustainability is a key driver for future innovation. Our vision is that the detergent industry will become one of the first industries to deliver what the world is looking for: a radical reduction in environmental impact throughout a product’s life cycle. Using enzymes achieves this without a decrease in wash performance and without any loss of convenience to the consumer. This is only possible by rethinking the entire value chain, driving innovation, and encouraging cooperation along the value chain toward a shared vision of a radically reduced footprint.

Novozymes’ solutions will play a key role in making this shift as detergent enzymes are readily biodegradable and therefore reduce aquatic toxicity when used to replace traditional chemicals. Furthermore, they reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions in the wash process by enabling consumers to get the same wash performance at lower temperatures. Their potential impact is significant. Life cycle assessment shows that if every household in Europe (see ref.) changed from washing at 40 to 30 °C and from 60 to 40 °C, and every household in the US (estimated) changed from “hot” to “warm” and from “warm” to “cold” washes, we could save up to 32 million tons of CO2, which is equivalent to taking 8 million cars off the road. High-performing, low-temperature wash solutions will remain a key focus area for Novozymes in the coming years, and we will participate actively in driving an ambitious vision for a more sustainable laundry value chain. (Ref.: Nielsen P.H. and Skagerlind P. (2007): Cost-neutral replacement of surfactants with enzymes, Household and Personal Care Today, 4/2007).

With this in mind, in May 2009 Novozymes, along with leading players in the detergent industry, hosted a CEO meeting on Cooperation and Innovation in the Laundry Value Chain in connection with the World Business Summit for Climate Change. And in December 2009, the detergent industry convened at the Copenhagen Detergent Sustainability Summit hosted by Novozymes to shape actions toward a more sustainable future for the industry. To equip the industry with the tools to translate sustainability into business growth, Novozymes brought key representatives such as WWF, Marks & Spencer, Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser, Henkel, McBride, Whirlpool, P&G, and A.I.S.E. together at the summit to discuss sustainability.

Encouraging consumers to lower the wash temperature

In June 2009, Novozymes launched I do 30, a campaign that encourages consumers in Europe to make a difference by turning down the temperature on their washing machines to 30 °C and thereby reducing CO2 emissions. This is a way of exerting pressure on political decision-makers to support strong climate policies that encourage climate-friendly everyday actions such as low-temperature washes. At the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December, the campaign signatures, representing 16,000 people from all over the world, were handed to Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, as the host of COP15.

My Report