How Good Chemistry Can Flourish Through Brands and Biomaterials

At Sustainability Consult, we believe that responsible development of renewable chemistry and a transition from fossil fuels to bio-based materials can play an important role in decarbonising society. Raising awareness of the materials in supply chains promotes responsible chemicals, so we’re proud to have been one of the first companies to bring the Bio Revolution to Sustainable Brands in 2015.

This year’s theme is ‘Redefining The Good Life’, so how can green chemistry support ethical consumer goods and how can the brands encourage development of sustainable biomaterials?

Sustainable chemistry is based on several factors. It relies on the materials which go into it, the efficiency of the process and what materials come out. Now I’m no scientist – you may have worked that out already! – but I do work with chemists and engineers daily to tell their story to a wider audience.

And there are plenty of greatstories to tell! Advances in green chemicals, responsible raw materials and the Bio Revolution highlight the potential for positive change throughout the chemical industry.  

Sustainable feedstocks play a vital role in ‘greening’ any chemical process. Global suppliers such as Reverdia (producing bio-succinic acid) offer credible alternatives to petrochemicals which can reduce the environmental impact of consumer products. As part of its sustainability commitment, the German outdoor brand VAUDE has used thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) based on Reverdia’s bio-succinic acid for toe caps and heel counters in its shoes.

However, just like sustainability, bio-based should not become another label or trend targeting only one specific market. Good chemistry needs to be more holistic and integrated throughout the production process. A new tool launched this year by EY, in partnership with AkzoNobel and Advanced Biochemical (Thailand), will be the first ever e-certification to track bio-based content along the value chain, making it easier for manufacturers to choose plant-based materials and move towards a more circular production model.

Further developments in the process industry are also paving the way for more efficient chemistry. For example, Stora Enso is focused on commercialising lignin, a polymer which is traditionally discarded. A versatile, non-toxic raw material, lignin can be used in a range of applications where fossil-based materials are currently used. Stora Enso also burns lignin in some of its lime kilns to generate energy, which has dramatically reduced carbon emissions.

And what about end of life? Sure, your plastic bottle or face scrub may have been born from good chemistry or biomass but what’s the point if goes straight into landfill or lingers in the ocean? Natural, recyclable or biodegradable products can all reduce pollution if done right and help the shift towards a more circular economy.

Sustainability Consult is a values-based organisation and an advisor to the bioeconomy which has promoted stakeholder engagement and credible communications over many years. This year, we conducted our #WhatBrandsWant survey to quiz the brands directly on biomaterials and better understand the end-user perspective. The results offered an insight on the drivers and barriers affecting the bio-based materials sector and beyond.

Most of the brands which responded said they already used biomaterials in their products. Also, surprisingly, over a third stated that they did not yet have a ‘Green Preferred Supplier List’ based on sustainability criteria. There is still work to be done.

I’m looking forward to sharing more findings from #WhatBrandsWant at SB’17 Copenhagen. More than that, I’m looking forward to digging deeper into the brand perspectives from participants during the Innovation Lab on ‘Good Chemistry and Materials’. You can join the discussion in Denmark on 31 October from 2pm.  

Richard Delahay
Managing Director
Sustainability Consult
October 26, 2017

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