Bio-Based Economy

»Bio-based economy« refers to efforts that make the economy sustainable by using biological resources, for example, by replacing fossil materials with biomass.

Currently, around 95 % of all industrially manufactured goods rely on fossil resources. However, governments worldwide have set targets for environmental and climate protection. With its »Policy framework on bio-based and bio-plastics,« the European Commission aims to develop a comprehensive policy framework on the sourcing, labeling, and use of bio-based plastics, as well as on the use of biodegradable and compostable plastics. Regarding the industrial production process, the Commission adopted the Communication »Sustainable Carbon Cycles.« Its aspirational goal is that by 2028, any ton of CO2 captured, transported, used, and stored by industries should be reported and accounted for from its origin; by 2030, at least 20 % of the carbon used in the chemical and plastic products should come from sustainable nonfossil sources; and by 2030, 5 million tons of CO2 should be annually removed from the atmosphere and permanently stored through technological solutions.

The bio-based economy is increasingly recognized as a way to live within the limits of our planet. Tomorrow’s economy depends on today’s shift to the bio-economy, and this shift comes with a responsibility: to harvest and process biological resources efficiently in a way that preserves ecosystems and biodiversity and that respects human rights. Clariant has taken on this responsibility.

Through its Portfolio Value Program (PVP), Clariant assesses the sustainability profile of the product and project portfolio. More information can be found in the PVP chapter. In 2022, the company conducted a methodology update, which raised the ambition on bio-economy relevant topics. From an early stage of the innovation project until commercialization, the use of renewable raw materials is assessed, also considering whether they are food-competing, genetically modified, or have an impact on biodiversity.

Clariant supports projects like SPIRAL (Small Producer Inclusivity and Resilience Alliance) to foster sustainability in bio-economy supply chains. SPIRAL connects global key players in the oil palm industry to support the inclusion of small farmers in the global supply chain and promote sustainable farming methods. The Clariant Foundation, an independently managed, purely philanthropic nonprofit organization, funds organizations and projects across the globe, e.g., two projects focused on sustainability in Indonesian palm oil plantations.

Need for action: Indonesian palm oil plantations

Need for action: Indonesian palm oil plantations

Clariant is a supporter of sustainability-related projects on Indonesian palm oil plantations and engages in activities as part of the collaborative initiative Action for Sustainable Derivatives, where Clariant is a member. Exemplary projects are in relation to fostering women’s rights in supply chains or aim at stopping deforestation. The projects are supported by the Clariant Foundation:

HERrespect: fostering women’s rights in supply chains

Global supply chain companies are an important employer of women – they represent the majority of the workforce. Many of these female workers experience a low status in the workplace and in society, high levels of harassment, and violence. Violence, which can be economic, emotional, physical, or sexual, deprives women of their basic human rights and compromises their well-being. The issue requires increased attention and awareness, and Clariant and its customers are placing an increased emphasis on social aspects and human rights due diligence in the supply chain.

In 2022, the ASD (Action for Sustainable Derivatives) in collaboration with BSR (Business for Social Responsibility) launched HERrespect, a unique pilot that addresses gender-based violence, e.g., in Indonesian palm oil plantations. The project is part of the initiative HERprojects™ and strives to empower women and make sure that women are able to engage in decent and dignified work by bringing together global brands, suppliers, and NGOs. More than 1 000 workplace interventions have been initiated across 17 countries since 2007.

Read more on HERrespect

The Mosaik Initiative: stopping deforestation

Forest destruction is a threat to the whole planet. Awareness of this issue is high among consumers and media. Most deforestation is linked to meat, soy products, and palm oil. In 2022, the Action for Sustainable Derivatives (ASD), in collaboration with Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) and Inobu, an Indonesian nonprofit research institute established in 2014, launched the next phase of its Mosaik initiative in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. This five-year project aims to protect and restore landscapes while improving the welfare of farmers and indigenous people. The Mosaik initiative focuses not only on certifying palm oil but also on making the production of commodities more sustainable and inclusive.

In 2022, Clariant completed the integration of the Brazilian Personal Care Specialties company Beraca into its portfolio, offering a full range of active and natural origin ingredients. Beraca is a leading provider of natural ingredients ethically sourced from the Amazon rainforest and other Brazilian biomes. With the Sociobiodiversity Enhancement Program®, shared value is created for the company, customers, communities, and other stakeholders. Through this, Beraca can connect Brazilian local communities to its clients, offering transparency, full traceability, give-back projects, with true positive impact by keeping the forest standing, protecting the wildlife, and water resources.

Clariant encourages supplier communities to work with different native species so that many species have economic value and thus the vegetation is conserved. Besides, there are contracts with suppliers that have as a requirement the respect for environmental laws and that on-site monitoring is carried out according to necessity.

The communities are closely monitored by the Biodiversity team, and assessments of associations and cooperatives are carried out from the point of view of quality, sustainability, and compliance. Contracts are signed with supplier communities with labor and environmental clauses, and meetings are held with all members presenting the Supplier Code of Conduct, which mainly deals with good labor and social practices.

Clariant complies with the Brazilian Forest Code. It requires landowners to maintain 35 % to 80 % of their land under native vegetation.

Management approach

Management approach

Within Clariant, Group Biotechnology was integrated in 2022 into the Business Segment Biofuels & Derivatives. The Global Innovation and Sustainability Council (GISC) and the Board of Director’s Innovation and Sustainability Committee oversee the topic.

The business units manage opportunities and engagements with stakeholders, create business opportunities, and initiate new product designs. The business unit contract R&D centers work on finding bio-based solutions and on developing products.

Clariant is going to enhance its corporate management approach to the bio-based economy in the near future. This will include a review of all policies and goals.

Bio-based economy policies

Bio-based economy policies

The company has recently defined the bio-based economy as one of its four Innovation Arenas based on three pillars: procuring raw materials, increasing the use of bio-based materials, and developing products that support a bio-economy (e.g., processing waste oil into fuels).

Clariant’s focus on a bio-based economy is a distinguishing feature within the chemical industry. The company improves the sustainable profile or supports the improvement of Scope 3 at customers.

Clariant has set Scope 1, 2, and 3 emission reduction targets for 2030 in accordance with the Science-Based Targets initiative. Bio-based products and materials play a central role in achieving these objectives, as they often have a favorable emission profile.

Read more on our sustainability designator Terra

Read more on VITA sustainable surfactants

In December 2021, Clariant published its Global Policy on Sustainable Palm Oil, which sets forth commitments for the sourcing of sustainable palm oil, i.e., transitioning to source 100 % certified palm-based materials according to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification or equivalent. The policy also fo­cuses on supplier requirements such as compliance with the No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation (NDPE) approach. Achieving the commitments by 2025 is facilitated largely by increased transparency in the value chain, which Clariant encourages actors along the value chain to pursue. Clariant sources RSPO certified palm oil and palm kernel oil derivatives according to the RSPO Mass Balance allocation concept/scheme. Its ultimate goal is to shift all palm-related pur­chases to sustainable alternatives.

Since 2013, Clariant has been a partner in the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC). BIC represents the private sector in two public-private partnerships with the European Commission: the Bio-based Industries Joint Undertaking (2014–2020) and its successor, the Circular Bio-based Europe Joint Undertaking (2021–2027). They set goals to establish and demonstrate new sustainable circular and bio-based value chains.

Clariant has participated in the initiative »Sustainable Palm Oil and Traceability in Sabah« (SPOTS). During its participation, Clariant implemented action plans regarding the sustainability of its palm oil supply chain. They include working on the transparency of supply chains and providing support services to independent smallholders to improve their income and quality of life. 

As a member of the Action for Sustainable Derivatives (ASD), Clariant does a transparency exercise to assess how the company’s portfolio is exposed to risky areas. In 2022, for the first time, the company engaged with its 20 most important suppliers within ASD by using the Sustainable Palm Index (SPI) Tool. The SPI is an evaluation scorecard for suppliers of palm-based derivatives and aims to assess the level of commitments, process, and achievements in terms of sustainable sourcing practices. It is a self-disclosure questionnaire with independent verification based on desk information. The evaluation is conducted by Transitions. Through this assessment, Clariant achieved an understanding about the level of compliance of their main suppliers. At the same time, Clariant was evaluated as a supplier itself and was evaluated as compliant. Read more about supplier evaluation in Supply Chain Resiliency

Research for sustainable materials

Research for sustainable materials

Clariant has established contract R&D centers and biotechnology facilities to test a variety of different feedstocks and to turn them into high-performing, sustainable solutions. Within Clariant, Group Biotechnology was integrated into the Business Line Biofuels & Derivatives in 2022. It also partners with experts in its value chains to sustainably source and process plant ingredients. It also produces second-generation bioethanol under the sunliquid® brand. In October 2021, the construction of the first full-scale commercial cellulosic ethanol plant for sunliquid® in Podari, Romania, was completed.

In 2022, the Business AreaBusiness AreaFor the financial reporting, Clariant grouped its businesses in three core Business Areas: Care Chemicals, Catalysis, and Natural Resources. As of 1 January 2023, the Group conducts its business through the three newly formed Business Units Care Chemicals, Catalysts, and Adsorbents & Additives and will report accordingly as of the first quarter of 2023.View entire glossary Natural Resources continued its search for sustainable raw materials with an improved carbon footprint or toxicity profile. The Exolit® OP, Licowax®, and Licocene® Terra ranges, for example, are based on certified renewable ethylene and propylene from biomass feedstock, such as non-food-competing residue oils, helping to reduce the consumption of fossil resources.

One focus in 2022 was to scale up the sunliquid® process. The plant in Podari produced the first commercial amounts of second-generation bioethanol. The scale-up, however, also revealed some engineering challenges, which are being addressed but which are slowing the ramp-up to name plate capacity of the plant. This prompted taking an impairment to account for the revised plan in the fourth quarter.

Another focus was the scale-up of the rice bran wax-based coatings platform, which experienced rapid growth throughout the year, prompting a capacity expansion. This platform is replacing fossil-based waxes with wax derivatives based on a wax side stream from the production of rice bran oil. The resulting products have a lower carbon footprint, show excellent performance, and benefit from the inherent properties of the natural source being biodegradable or compostable and thus preventing the formation of microplastics.

In the Business AreaBusiness AreaFor the financial reporting, Clariant grouped its businesses in three core Business Areas: Care Chemicals, Catalysis, and Natural Resources. As of 1 January 2023, the Group conducts its business through the three newly formed Business Units Care Chemicals, Catalysts, and Adsorbents & Additives and will report accordingly as of the first quarter of 2023.View entire glossary Care Chemicals, Clariant unveiled new Vita bio-based surfactants, which are used for personal care products such as shampoo or detergents. More information can be found in the chapter Care Chemicals of the Business Report.

In the Business Units Functional Minerals, Additives (since January 2023: AdsorbentsAdsorbentsUsually solid substances which are able to selectively accumulate certain substances from adjacent gaseous or liquid phases.View entire glossary & Additives), and Catalysts, Clariant continued to provide key ingredients and catalysts for the production of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). For more sustainable products, see the chapter Catalysts

The Business Unit Additives (since January 2023: AdsorbentsAdsorbentsUsually solid substances which are able to selectively accumulate certain substances from adjacent gaseous or liquid phases.View entire glossary & Additives) collaborates with the English biomaterials company Floreon, which develops and markets proprietary polylactic acid (PLA)-based compounds which are suitable also for durable and demanding applications such as flame-retarded home appliances, possibly replacing benchmark fossil-based materials with a significantly less positive carbon footprint. These polymers are mechanically tougher than traditional PLA, they deliver significant energy savings in processing, and are industrially compostable. Clariant’s additives improve these biopolymers’ performance and processing characteristics.

 Read more in the Business Report’s chapter Natural Resources



Clariant considers bio-certifications when buying raw materials, especially the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC) and the REDcert certifications. Palm-based materials are evaluated using the RSPO Mass Balance certification.

The plants of the Business Unit Additives in Knapsack and Frankfurt (both in Germany) received the ISCC Plus and REDcert certification for the mass-balance approach used in the production of product ranges containing biomass feedstocks. Both certifications are recognized schemes for validating the chain of custody and traceability of sustainable biomass, biofuels, and bioliquids in production processes.

Contribution to value creation

Contribution to value creation

Clariant expects that regulations will increasingly stipulate the use of bio-based products. Moreover, there is also a high customer demand for sustainable bio-based products in Clariant’s key markets, such as the personal or home care markets. Consumers are increasingly aware of climate change and related issues and are willing to pay a premium for sustainable products. This demand for bio-based chemicals will even grow in the coming years. Clariant is ready to meet this demand by protecting nature and maintaining high social standards.

To this end, Clariant considers the complete value chain – from the raw material feedstock to basic chemical manufacturers and the company’s direct customers. For example, using waste streams from bio-based product processing is a promising way to connect industries and to avoid trade-offs.

Portfolio and procurement

Portfolio and procurement

Sustainability-driven innovation will support Clariant’s average annual growth by approximately 1–2 %, with a focus on bio-based products, on decarbonization, and on circularity. At the end of 2022, more than 20 % of Clariant’s portfolio was bio-based, enabled bio-based processes, or supported the transformation of bio-based raw materials. This spans most of Clariant’s businesses, including care chemicals, bio-based additives, bioethanol production, and vegetable oil purification. With the Portfolio Value Program (PVP), Clariant continuously screens its portfolio based on 39 criteria, including bio-economy, to ensure that it aligns with sustainability principles.

Across all business areas, Clariant procured more than 4 800 different raw materials. In 2022, only 15.9 % of purchased raw materials stemmed directly or indirectly from crude oil. About 26.6 % were derived from natural raw materials such as bentonite, and 4.12 % were made of renewable raw materials. The remaining materials were either base or specialty chemicals or nonchemicals. The most frequently purchased bio-based raw material was vegetable oil (e.g., palm oil and palm kernel oil), followed by wood pulp, starch, and bioethanol. In 2022, purchases of these products amounted to CHF 449 million, representing 20.9 % of direct spend.