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Image: Sway's seaweed-based film is already being used by a variety of brands | Jonathan Baskin for NOAH x Nation FC1
Convened by Lonely Whale, the program aims to accelerate scaling and market adoption of seaweed-based alternatives to thin-film plastics made from fossil fuels.
Today, during her keynote at SB’23 San
Estée Lauder Companies (ELC) Chief
Sustainability Officer Nancy Mahon
announced the launch of the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation
The one-year program, powered by award-winning nonprofit Lonely
Whale, aims to accelerate the scaling and market
adoption of marine-degradable, seaweed-based alternatives to conventional, fossil-fuel-based
plastic films developed by three materials startups —
Sway, Zerocircle and
— that won the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation
earlier this year. The Accelerator is sponsored by Tom Ford
Beauty and its parent company, The Estée
Lauder Companies; and supported by Phillip
Sarofim’s VC firm,
According to 2020
by the Pew Charitable Trusts and SystemIQ, nearly half of all new
plastic waste entering the ocean each year comes from one, ubiquitous source:
petroleum-based thin-film plastic — which releases harmful carbon into the
atmosphere and displaces wildlife and people from their homes. These flexible
films are not readily degradable and difficult to
and they can often end up in the ocean, where they can be ingested by sea life.
The Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Accelerator recognizes that in order to
measurably displace traditional thin-film plastic from supply chains, winning
innovations require access to multifaceted networks, leading insights and brand
collaborators to deliver solutions to these issues at scale. The Accelerator
will engage cross-industry expertise to facilitate monthly seminars and
strategic communication workshops for the Prize-winning companies, equipping
them with the support needed to advance their innovations in an effort to
support the reduction of traditional and not readily degradable plastics.
A group of international brands in Lonely Whale’s Early Adopter
Coalition have committed to trialing the
Prize-winning packaging solutions, including ELC — which has begun its internal
trial to identify potential use cases across Tom Ford Beauty. As the convenor,
Lonely Whale aims to bridge the gap between corporate interest in alternative
materials and brands’ ability to adopt them.
“Over the course of our sustainability journey at The Estée Lauder Companies,
we’ve learned that strategic partnerships and collaborations are essential to
helping us reach our goals,” Mahon said in a statement. “We are honored to
continue our partnership with Lonely Whale to help advance the integration of
innovative, seaweed-based packaging materials across the fashion and beauty
industries and beyond.”
In 2020, Lonely Whale unveiled “Unwrap the Future” — a three phase, multi-year
program to vet and scale viable, marine-safe solutions to traditional thin-film
plastic. For phase one of the program, the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize was
created; in March 2023, Sway, Zerocircle and Notpla were awarded the $1.2
million Prize Purse — a combination cash prize and direct investment presented
by Tom Ford Beauty, ELC and Trousdale Ventures.
The launch of the Accelerator marks phase two of “Unwrap the Future” and
celebrates the continued commitment of the brand’s investment in innovation to
design and support a regenerative future.
“Unveiling the winners of the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize was merely the
first step. It’s now essential to expedite capital access for these companies as
they expand, replacing detrimental plastics with solutions rooted in nature,”
Sarofim said. “Innovation remains at the core of our investment ethos; and we’re
excited to witness the transformative impact these enterprises will usher in,
paving the way for a more promising tomorrow by safeguarding the health of our
“I am thoroughly inspired by the ingenuity, dedication and passion shown by the
Prize winners and the ongoing investment in innovation from our partners at Tom
Ford Beauty, The Estée Lauder Companies and Trousdale Ventures.” said Lonely
Whale co-founder Lucy
Sumner. “Alongside the Early
Adopter Coalition, recently joined by packaging systems leader Atlantic
Packaging, these brands are actively demonstrating the type of radical
collaboration needed to develop concrete and dynamic solutions that ensure the
long-term health and prosperity of our ocean.”
Brands interested in joining as members of the Early Adopter Coalition can reach
out to [email protected] to learn more.
Published Oct 18, 2023 12pm EDT / 9am PDT / 5pm BST / 6pm CEST