The Material Innovation Initiative works with entrepreneurs, scientists, and material companies to develop sustainable and animal-free alternatives to leather, silk, wool, down, fur, and exotic skins. Our landscapes below provide an overview of companies producing animal-free alternatives of these six materials.
Each company is then further categorized by the main technology used to manufacture their material; mechanical/chemical, mycelium, cultivation (lab-grown), or fermentation. These landscapes are not intended as a comprehensive view of market developments. A number of companies and entrepreneurs in these areas have asked to remain confidential.
WHO IS INCLUDED?
Our mission is to support the next gen material industry in producing materials that meet the quality, price, scale, and sustainability needs of the fashion, home goods, and automotive industries. We make every effort to evaluate products based on sustainability measures. Although there are few hard and fast rules to determine which companies to include, we do prefer those that limit the use of petroleum-based raw materials.
We are looking for true replacements to animal materials. Many interesting products are similar, but don’t meet necessary industry standards. Some products might be leather-like but do not meet many of the sensory or tactile specifications for leather. Similarly, many plant-based yarns can be woven like wool, but do not meet the sensory or tactile specifications for wool. Unless these companies show significant promise, we have not included them.
Price is obviously a driving factor in a brand’s decision to move to a new material. Many of these alternative materials are currently at higher price points than traditional animal materials. New technologies generally come with a higher price tag, but with more innovation and competition, the prices will go down. We have not excluded any company based on the price of their materials.
A big issue facing many of these companies is their ability to scale. Some companies on our landscapes are only in the research and development phase. Others are working on pilot projects and still others are producing products currently on the market. We have not excluded any company based on their phase or current production capacity. Our hope is that innovation will also solve many companies’ scaling challenges.
We only include companies producing materials that are significantly more sustainable than animal materials in the long run. We don’t include the dozens of companies worldwide producing replacements for animal materials using petroleum polymers, as petroleum-based products are unsustainable long term. Our goal is not to move the market away from one material with a negative environmental impact to another, even if that new material is animal-free. We see significant promise in materials made through mechanical and chemical, mycelium, cultivated, and fermented processes. When examining a material or technology’s environmental impact, we evaluate the environmental impact of materials and technologies by considering use of water, energy, land, and chemicals; emissions; resource depletion; biological waste; animal welfare; and end of life including biodegradability, compostability, degradability, and recyclability.
LOADS OF OPPORTUNITY
The industries are currently fairly small, which means a lot of opportunity for growth. If a section is blank, it means we are not aware of any companies producing an equivalent material using that technology. Please note that some technologies are not suitable to manufacture some products. In exotic skins, the field is wide open as no companies are currently working on these next gen materials. If you are an entrepreneur, scientist, or investor interested in this industry, please reach out to us here.