Sustainable Materials: It’s What You Make Of It

A look at recent activity in sustainable materials

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Why do sustainable materials matter?

Recall five items from your daily morning routine that you used, applied, consumed, or wore. Most likely, you will name the average soap, toothpaste, shampoo, coffee, or your outfit. What you may overlook, even subliminally, is the material that covers it, holds it, stores it, and in the case of clothes, wove it. A new wave of companies is working to supply brands with renewable and sustainable materials that help maintain the equilibrium between business and the environment and key natural resources. In this post, we provide a snapshot of the recent activities in the sustainable materials space.

Material, in a broad sense, is embedded into almost every aspect of our lives. However, within our scope of research, we refer to sustainable materials used in the production of consumer goods and industrial sectors that are bio-based. They should have a minimal negative impact on the environment as well as society, in terms of the production process, usage, and disposal—the whole life-cycle of stuff! We’re curious about the activity, like some bigger retail brands adopting sustainable materials for product lines. Though we track bio-based, consumer retail leather, textiles, packaging, and industrial uses, this post will touch on the first three. 

Check out the industry hub to understand the market sizing and full potential.

A quick look at the action

Right now, we see that a combination of funding constraints, a lack of scale, and limited traction has left even the industry’s most highly-funded startups short of winning significant market share up to this point. 

Regulations are somewhat in play but still treading lightly; however, we’ve seen instances where states like Maine and Oregon have proposed laws for packaging and waste management. Could there also be a stronger push from consumer demand? Well, there’s been collaborative work between fast-moving consumer goods or premium retail fashion, for example, and startups producing bio-based materials. 

At a glance, we’ve mapped how a few big names interact, partner, and invest in startups in our sustainable material industry coverage.

sustainable material industry coverage

Source: a select section of the incumbent mapping portfolio compiled by SPEEDA Edge.

We’re not suggesting this is an overnight trend because a year ago, Lululemon and Bolt Thread partnered to launch yoga accessories during 2022. Unilever’s investment portfolio, which we track, showed that it partnered with Pulpex, a bio-based packaging company, to create laundry detergent in paper bottles. And Nike and Ananas Anam also partnered to launch a sneaker collection named “Happy Pineapple,” made from vegan leather material.

And the latest buzz points to an active month of April

Just within the last month, we noticed:

  • Origin Materials, a carbon-negative materials manufacturer, partnered with Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings (MCHG), a leading chemicals and advanced materials producer in Japan, to develop tire materials using Origin’s bio-based resins. Origin also partnered with the fashion division of luxury goods manufacturer LVMH Moet Hennesy Louis Vuitton, to develop bio-based packaging for the latter’s perfumes and cosmetics products.
  • Eastman, a specialty materials company partnered with Marchon Eyewear, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of distributors of quality eyewear and sunwear, to adopt sustainable materials for frames and tinted lenses.
  • Desserto, the cactus-based leather-making company partnered with Givenchy, Karl Lagerfield, and Everlane to develop cactus-leather products.
  • Loliware, which produces cups and cutlery using proprietary patented technology, introduced a seaweed-based pellet produced using its proprietary “SEA technology,” for large-scale production of straws.

Of course, we can’t conclude based on a month’s select activity, but undeniably, adopting sustainable materials, even in part, is happening.


From hype to a hallowed virtue, sustainability is increasingly becoming a must-have consideration in any business. It’s not enough to simply have a sustainability wing but adopt more of a lens to look through at any aspect of daily life: food, energy, travel, clothes! Be it to encase your shampoo bottle, seats for your car, or daily-wear clothes, the material we use to make, pack, store, and preserve matters. The tech for bio-based sustainable material is here and growing, so it’s truly what you make of it. A commitment toward change is in the hands of both corporates that produce goods as well as consumers that shape demands for the same goods. We watch this industry closely because the scope it holds and the impact it promises to wield, though thread-like and somewhat scanty now, might soon weave a tapestry. 

What we didn’t discuss today was the trajectory of the industry or evaluate player performance, but boldly, we say that there are opportunities; however, understanding where and how to implement innovation requires a deep dive into the circular economy movement. 

We map the players, the tech that sets them apart, and their interactions on our platform. It’s important to note that sustainable materials connect with waste management resources (recycling) and if we’re stepping into construction, with prefab tech as well. To understand the overlaps and gaps, talk to our team to get more info.

Janine Manishka Gunasekara
Content Marketing Lead, SPEEDA Edge

Janine is a Content Marketing Lead for SPEEDA Edge, an emerging industry intelligence platform.