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Supply Chain
Sustainability Consult Reveals #WhatBrandsWant When It Comes It Bio-Based Materials

PR and communications agency Sustainability Consult has published the results of the #WhatBrandsWant survey, projecting considerable growth in the biomaterials market as consumer demand and stakeholder pressure drive brand investment towards the development of bio-based products. Sustainability Consult’s findings reveal a growing commitment towards renewable materials and a shift away from fossil-based products.

Of the over 40 brands surveyed across sectors ranging from apparel, footwear and textiles to food and beverage and personal care, half have set targets for bio-based products. One quarter said bio-based content was one of the main selection criteria used when choosing a supplier based on sustainability performance. Of the brands not currently using bio-based materials, two-thirds said they intend to incorporate them into future product lines.

Cost was identified as the main barrier preventing widespread adoption of bio-based materials, followed by performance and availability. Respondents also cited concerns regarding feedstock, end-of-life options, as well as a lack of consumer understanding. To overcome these challenges, brands are looking to the bio-based industry to provide credible information on product advantages.

While the majority of respondents have already begun working with or committed to using bio-based materials, those that not defined plans to use them in the future cited concerns about agricultural land being used to produce feedstock rather than food as the reason behind their hesitance. Interestingly, brand respondents from the household goods, personal care and leisure equipment and toys sectors were most likely to have set bio-based targets, including Nestlé, LEGO and adidas.

When asked about green sourcing policies, 51 percent of respondents, largely in the personal care and apparel, textile and footwear sectors, revealed that they have a “Green Preferred Supplier List” in place, with bio-based content being one of the key criteria.

“Since 2011, Sustainability Consult has worked closely with companies invested in the bioeconomy. We often hear this industry ask the same question: how can we encourage brands to invest in renewable materials? Our first ever stakeholder survey provides clear pointers, highlighting opportunities for action to mainstream bio-based solutions,” said Richard Delahay, Managing Director at Sustainability Consult.

#WhatBrandsWant also indicates that producers need to address a range of different motivations for adopting bio-based materials. While early adopters are influenced by pressure to become more sustainable, late adopters will likely be influenced by the changing regulatory environment and the need to future-proof their businesses.

To assess whether to switch, brands need a clear picture of the consequences of adopting bio-based materials. Key steps producers can take to help fill the information gap include providing sustainability information on chemicals and materials made from biomass, engaging the supply chain from end-to-end, promoting responsible sourcing through third-party certification and life cycle assessment (LCA) and engaging brands on end-of-life labeling initiatives.

Over a six-month period, Sustainability Consult surveyed more than 6,000 participants and analyzed responses from over 40 brands. The results offer unique end-user insights on the drivers and barriers affecting the renewable materials market.