Over the last few years, the bioeconomy – a global economy that uses biological resources and waste from the land and sea as inputs to food, industrial and energy production1 – has been a major point of discussion for scientists and policymakers alike, as companies across many industries continue to rely on environmentally damaging practices. As such, today’s discussion on the bioeconomy has largely centered around how people, companies and industries can reduce their impact on the environment through more ethically sourced, produced, packaged, sold and consumed products and services.
As a motivated contributor in the space, DuPont™ Sorona® and our peers continue to forge a path forward to a cleaner, more circular apparel industry that supports a sustainable bioeconomy. However, the need for environmental responsibility goes far beyond textiles or even consumer brands. A sustainable bioeconomy requires significant buy-in from all key stakeholders, from manufacturers, to retailers to NGOs.
Key Bioeconomy Stakeholders
According to the European Commission, the goal of the bio-economy is “a more innovative and low-emissions economy, reconciling demands for sustainable agriculture and fisheries, food security, and the sustainable use of renewable biological resources for industrial purposes, while ensuring biodiversity and environmental protection.” This goal can be achieved through the development and commercialization of new sustainable technologies, but that requires the entire value chain to unite and innovate new ideas at a rapid pace. To truly make meaningful change, multiple partnerships and stakeholders must come together to see sustainability through from beginning to end.
While brands and retailers ultimately deliver sustainable products to the end-consumer, it’s crucial that these companies identify partners with shared goals and adopt materials and ingredients for their products that are sourced responsibly. In the apparel industry, there are certifications and tools that brands can leverage to ensure they’re sourcing them ethically and contributing to a robust, sustainable bioeconomy.
For example, by meeting the rigorous standards to become a bluesign® system partner, a product or company can communicate its commitment to reducing its impact on people and the environment, ensure responsible use of resources, and guarantee the highest level of consumer safety. The OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certification ensures that a company’s product is stringently tested to be free from harmful levels of more than 300 potentially dangerous substances and that it is safe for use by infants and toddlers. Additionally, the Cradle to Cradle certification for apparel products guides designers and manufacturers through a continual improvement process that looks at a product through five quality categories.
Once brands and retailers develop sustainable products, it’s imperative that they properly promote them and educate consumers on the value they bring a sustainable bioeconomy.
In the apparel industry, DuPont™ Sorona® brand partner, Toad&Co, produces “clothing with a conscious.” The eco-icon on its clothing indicates that it is made with sustainable fibers and that the fabrics have met the earth-friendly bluesign® or STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® certifications. In 2018, the company reduced their carbon emissions by 51 tons, enough to drive a car 150,000 miles2.
NGOs are also key agents in promoting the bioeconomy, serving as activists that fight for change by increasing awareness and driving adoption among the public.
In the apparel space, the Sustainable Brands community, Ellen MacArthur CE100 and Sustainable Apparel Coalition, all serve as resources and forums for brands dedicated to collaborating for a more sustainable bioeconomy.
Additionally, across industries, Ceres, a sustainability nonprofit, is dedicated to “transforming the economy to build a sustainable future for people and the planet.”
Together these players – and many more layers in between – can collectively drive a sustainable bio-based economy that can transform our environmental impact.
Looking to the Future
Although it has not been without major challenges, the sustainable bioeconomy is approaching a tipping point in its growth and maturation.
Work in the space, however, is far from complete. It requires significant collaboration across all industries and stakeholders, including apparel, and a broad commitment to defining success so that the next several generations can enjoy eco-friendly products that promote a sustainable bioeconomy.
1 European Commission
2 Toad & Co