Eleven companies from six countries have joined forces to launch the Renewable Carbon Initiative (RCI). The initiative, under the leadership of German research institute nova-Institute, aims to phase out the use of fossil fuels for all organic chemicals and materials by 2050 to enable chemicals, plastics and other organic materials to become sustainable, climate-friendly and part of the circular economy.

“There is a big focus on decarbonization of the energy sector, but less so on materials,” says Josef Innerlohinger, member of the R&D team at Lenzing, an Austrian chemical group which is part of the consortium. As energy continues to shift to renewable sources, the decarbonization of materials is expected to become increasingly important, he says.

“We want to move away from fossil-based carbon,” says Innerlohinger. “It’s not about avoiding carbon because we need it for a lot of materials.” RCI members are looking to accelerate the transition to renewable carbon, that is carbon sourced from biomass, recycling or the direct utilization of carbon dioxide.

The initiative intends to create cross-industry platforms to share expertise and demonstrate the feasibility of renewable carbon, as well as advocating for legislation, taxation and regulation changes and raising awareness of renewable carbon in the supply chain, the business community as a whole and the wider public. The creation of a renewable carbon label that is easy for consumers to understand could be part of RCI’s efforts, says Innerlohinger.

The other founding members of RCI include the German chemical group Covestro, the German personal care firm Beiersdorf, Dutch sugar beet co-op Cosun Beet Company, German consumer goods group Henkel, American gas fermentation group LanzaTech, Finnish oil refiner Neste, Dutch energy company SHV Energy, Dutch chemicals group Stahl, Anglo-Dutch food and consumer goods group Unilever and Finnish forest industry company UPM.