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January 2019

Safer Chemistry - 2018 in Review

We’re dedicating our first 2019 newsletter to a review of 2018. Corporations and governments continued to take steps to reduce toxics and pollution, and investment activity continued at pace.

Corporate Action in 2018

Brands and retailers continued to announce new chemical policies, bans, or intentions to eliminate certain chemicals or materials. Few examples include Amazon (new chemical policy), Home Depot, (ban certain paint strippers) Lowe’s (ban certain paint strippers), Walmart (ban certain paint strippers), and Sherwin-Williams (ban certain paint strippers), Home Depot (ban 9 chemicals), RiteAid (new chemical policy), Trader Joes (eliminate BPS/BPS), Dunkin’ Donuts (eliminate expanded polystyrene).

Companies also continued to announce plastic reduction and recycling goals. More than 290 companies and organizations have joined The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s “A Line in the Sand” initiative, pledging to eliminate plastic waste and pollution. Other examples include Nestle (increase recycled content), Evian (increase recycled content), Sodexho (eliminate or reduce certain plastic items), P&G (new sustainability goals), Starbucks (plastic straws), Bon Appétit (plastic straws), Marriott Hotels (plastic straws), Alaska Airlines (plastic straws), American Airlines (plastic straws), Coca Cola (recycling goals), Coca Cola (investment), several UK café and restaurant chains (recycling goals).

Government Action in 2018While chemical safety has been eroding under the current administration, we still see plenty of regulatory action. Few examples include: Washington State (banned fluorinated chemicals in food packaging), California (identified certain classes of hazardous chemicals in food packaging), California (announced plans to phase out halogenated flame retardants from consumer products), US Congress (allowed airports to use alternatives to halogenated flame retardants), Hawaii (banned certain chemicals in sun screens), New York (banned expanded polystyrene in food service), the FDA (banned certain food flavoring chemicals), EU (restricted single use plastic and marine polluting plastic, announced plans to increase recyclable packaging), six states (NY, CA, NH, VT, MN, and NJ) adopted more stringent drinking water safety guidelines, several states (including CA, HI, FL, NL, and WA) banned plastic straws.

Our recycling industry turned out to have feet of clay. At the end of 2017, China stopped accepting imports of several types of solid waste. US recyclable waste exports to China dropped from 16.2 million tons in 2016 to almost nothing in 2018. Waste is reportedly piling up at US facilities and recyclers are facing losses.Safer Chemistry Investment Activity in 2018We tracked $1.7 billion invested in young companies bringing safer chemicals and products to market. We note significant increases in both dollars and number of deals in food, consumer products, sensing & tracking, and e-commerce financings. The table below shows a summary of the deals we tracked in 2018.

Safer Made in 2018In 2018 we increased our investment in Ecologic Brands. They have been getting some media attention lately. Earlier in the year we also joined Repurpose’s Series A financing round, and led Mimikais seed investment round. We are excited about the number and quality of the investment opportunities we see in the safer chemistry space.

With support from Fashion for Good we published a report on innovation opportunities in textile and apparel to bring more investment dollars into this space. A similar report on food packaging will come out in early 2019.

We had a couple of closings and reached a viable size for our first fund. The final close will be in February 2019.

Recent Fundings

TemperPack, a sustainable packaging startup, has raised $22.5 million.

Dust Identity, a startup product tracking technology developer raised $2.3 million.

For Days, a sustainable clothing startup raised $2.8 million.

Molekule, a developer of air purification technology raised $25 million.

Opus 12, a company that uses CO2 to produce fuels and chemicals raised an undisclosed amount.

Zymergen, a company that manufactures molecules through fermentation for a wide array of uses and industries raised $400 million.

Recent Exits

Beyond Meat, a meat substitute producer filed for an IPO with plans to raise $100 million.

Levi Strauss, the San Francisco based inventor of the Blue Jean, and sustainability leader in textile and apparel, is expected is expected to have an IPO that values the company at $5 billion.

Kraft Heinz is acquiring Primal Nutrition, the maker of better-for-you condiments, sauces, dressings and snacks for approximately $200 million.

Walker & Company Brands, a startup making health and beauty products for people of color, has been acquired by Procter & Gamble. Terms were not disclosed.

Also Noted

Cosmethics – scan barcode, see what’s bad in your beauty products (for the young mothers, teenagers, and everyone else in your life).

Marty’s interview on the UCI podcast “Ask a Leader.”

Arlene Blum is hosting Flame Retardant Dilemma and Beyond on February 15th at UC Berkeley.

Levi Strauss & Co., NIKE, Inc., H&M and C&A align their approaches to safer chemistry in partnership with ZDHC.


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