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“Sustainability” and “bio-based” – are these two terms 25 years out of date?

EARTH.jpgAs experts in the industry it is often easy to forget some of the specialist knowledge that we are exposed to on a daily basis. But is bio-based the most appropriate term? For 25 years “sustainability” and “bio-based” have become the catchphrase for our industry but we are still facing the polluted mess we started with all that time ago. Whilst huge progress has been made among the scientists and the global brands, has it had the commercial platform that it truly deserves and more importantly needs?

I believe bio-based is a good term, it just needs to be consistently used by everyone in the ecosystem to create a unified voice, which will then that resonate with everyone in the chain.

By definition, sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”Whilst bio-based refers to a product wholly or partly derived from materials of biological origin, excluding materials embedded in geological formations and/or fossilised. It may seem obvious to us that both terms aim to lower our dependence on fossil fuels.

But along the way, something has got lost in translation. We called upon the opinion of our experts to find out their opinions about terminology and whether this is disengaging the consumer.

Emily ODowd (EOD): What are some of the weaknesses when using the term bio-based?

TIPA: When using the term “bio-based”, it is not clear if this is coming from a corn/sugar based process or fermentation. Due to the debate about using food source for plastic application, it would be better to distinguish the two options. In our opinion, bio-based refers to the beginning life of plastic but many people confuse this with the sustainable performance of its end life.

Sophie Mather, Material Futurist, Biov8tion representing the Textile Exchange: Its a little alien and we need something softer for the consumer. Is the consumer ready for the in-depth information that we speak about in the industry?

o what extent is this stalling progress in the industry?

Alla Feldman, Of the Islands: What is stalling the progress is that there is not a lot of trust from the consumers, and when they try to research further, the information cannot easily be found or it is not presented in the right format for public consumption.

EOD: Do you believe the consumer is disengaged in the industry because of this term?

TIPA: The consumer might be confused and feel mislead.

Leif Lof, Co-Founder of Kemibolaget: I think the word bio-based is very good. It resonates much better with the consumer than organic or ecological.

EOD: What could we use in place of the term bio-based?

Alla Feldman, Of the Islands: The feedback I get from my customers is that their customers respond very well to terms like “organic”, “100 percent natural”, “eco” or “bio”. These terms resonate with the customers as they communicate that something is “good for them.” However while these terms do peek initial interest, the more aware consumers see these terms are invitation to further research it can become a lot more complicated, as any of these terms can be interpreted in different ways.

I believe bio-based is a good term, it just needs to be consistently used by everyone in the ecosystem to create a unified voice, which will then that resonate with everyone in the chain.

Please send in your thoughts to and engage in the debate on social media.

For more stories like this you might like:

$5.8 billion invested by VCs in bio-based chemicals; focus shifts to disruptive synthetic biology.

Algae, the super biofuel that one day will power our cars.

Coffee fuels people and now its waste is an exciting new bio-based resource.

Expert View: How are LEGO driven to “influence the adults of tomorrow”?

Danone andNestlWaters lead new initiative that could “bring bio-based bottles to the world as soon as possible.”

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