The Renewable Carbon Initiative: Looking back on a successful first year

The Renewable Carbon Initiative: Looking back on a successful first year

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October 28th, 2021

What a difference a year makes. As the business community steps up its efforts to tackle the climate crisis, at Stahl we’re helping to drive the transition from fossil to renewable carbon to create a more sustainable and circular society. As a founding member of the Renewable Carbon Initiative (RCI), we’re partnering with leading innovators in renewable raw materials to extract our feedstocks from sustainable sources.

Stahl helped to launch the RCI on 20 September 2020. This first year of the initiative has seen impressive progress: from 11 founding members, the RCI now includes 30 member companies. As the initiative expands, we see opportunities to build direct relationships with more innovative downstream brands as they explore new ways to increase the amount of renewable content in their products. As is the case for the other RCI members, our aim in joining this important initiative is twofold: to dramatically improve our environmental impact, but at the same time, to help our partners and customers achieve their sustainability goals.

Relegating fossil feedstocks to the history books
By actively promoting solutions to enable a shift from fossil-based resources to renewable feedstocks, the RCI helps companies adapt to today’s changing regulatory landscape. Soon, larger companies will have to report their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the footprint of their products as part of legislative changes surrounding the European Green Deal. Reporting on GHG emissions will also include Scope 3 emissions, which include the indirect emissions occurring in a company’s supply chain where the used raw materials account for a large proportion of the footprint.

This is where the origins of chemicals and plastics come into play as an important contributor to the carbon footprint. Without a shift from fossil to renewable feedstocks (namely bio-based, CO2-based, and recycled content), a sustainable future and the Paris Agreement’s climate targets will almost certainly remain out of reach. That’s why Stahl is joining like-minded organizations in championing renewable carbon. Sustainability starts at home, of course, and within Stahl we’ve begun developing renewable carbon-based products from biomass feedstock and captured carbon. And we’re developing innovative techniques to accelerate the commercialization of renewable feedstock-based products achieved through pyrolysis of recycled plastics.

Michael Costello, Group Director of ESG at Stahl: “If the world is to achieve the 1.5oC global warming targets set at the 2015 Paris Agreement (and updated at the COP26 in Glasgow, in November 2021), we all need to reduce GHG emissions. The chemical industry can do this by de-fossilizing its supply chain, using renewable carbon sources instead of petrochemical-based products. This is our challenge, as a company and as an industry, and it is the reason why the Renewable Carbon Initiative was formed.”

More to come in year two
If year one focused largely on getting the message across to a wide audience and attracting new members, during its second year, the RCI plans to gain a comprehensive understanding of the future political framework conditions in Europe and around the globe. These conditions are likely to play an ever-greater role in determining the future of chemistry and materials. Building on this knowledge, the topic of renewable carbon can then be systematically integrated into new political directives.

For the world’s policymakers, much of the focus is on developing a strategy to decarbonize the energy sector. However, this strategy cannot be applied to the chemical and material fields, where fossil resources remain an indispensable central building block. What’s more, the demand for carbon in the chemical and materials sectors is expected to more than double by 2050. To meet this demand sustainably, the only option is to shift toward climate-friendly alternatives to fossil carbon.

Signs of progress
But there’s good news: for the first time in industrial history, it’s possible to decouple chemistry and essential materials from petrochemicals and fully meet demand through biomass and recycled feedstocks. The faster we reduce the use of additional fossil carbon from the ground and the sooner we use alternative feedstocks at scale, the less we’ll need to rely on removing huge amounts of CO2 from the air to meet the world’s climate goals.

Having seen the benefits of the RCI first hand, Stahl encourages like-minded organizations to join this unique network of pioneers for renewable chemicals and materials and to bring innovative ideas and further momentum to the renewable carbon strategy. Exciting new developments are in the pipeline, and in the coming weeks, a new business platform will be launched: the Renewable Carbon Community (RCC). Its role will be to further facilitate the communication and networking between member companies so they can sharpen their focus on getting renewable carbon firmly embedded in the political agenda. At Stahl, we look forward to another year of progress in this and many other areas.

Transitioning to renewable feedstocks is one of Stahl’s key strategic pillars. Visit our dedicated webpage to learn more about how we’re working with our partners to decouple growth from carbon-based resource consumption.   

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The Renewable Carbon Initiative: Looking back on a successful first year
Michael Costello
Group Director Environment, Social & Governance