TOM FORD Plastic Innovation Accelerator Launches At Sustainable Brands Conference

The TOM FORD plastic innovation accelerator was announced at the 2023 Sustainable Brands conference. The one-year program, powered by award-winning nonprofit Lonely Whale, aims to advance awareness of traditional thin-film plastic and accelerate the market adoption of seaweed-based alternatives developed by the winners of the TOM FORD Plastic Innovation Prize: Sway, Zerocircle and Notpla. The Accelerator is sponsored by TOM FORD BEAUTY, its parent company, The Estée Lauder Companies, and supported by Phillip Sarofim’s Trousdale Ventures.

Nearly half of all new plastic waste entering the ocean* each year comes from one ubiquitous source: thin-film plastic made from fossil fuels, that are extracted from the ground, releasing harmful carbon into the atmosphere and displacing wildlife and people from their homes. These flexible films are not readily degradable and difficult to recycle — they can often end up in the ocean, where they can be ingested by sea life.

The TOM FORD Plastic Innovation Accelerator powered by Lonely Whale recognizes that in order to measurably displace traditional thin-film plastic from supply chains, winning innovations require access to multifaceted networks, leading insights, and brand collaborators to deliver solutions to these issues at scale. The Accelerator will engage cross-industry expertise to facilitate monthly seminars and strategic communication workshops for the Prize-winning companies, empowering them with the support needed to advance their innovations in an effort to support the reduction of traditional and not readily degradable plastics.

A group of international brands in Lonely Whale’s Early Adopter Coalition, have committed to trialing the Prize-winning packaging solutions, including The Estée Lauder Companies, which has begun its internal trial to identify potential use cases across TOM FORD BEAUTY. Acting as the convenor, Lonely Whale aims to bridge the gap between corporate interest in alternatives and brands’ ability to adopt them.

“Over the course of our sustainability journey at The Estée Lauder Companies, we’ve learned that strategic partnerships and collaborations are essential to helping us reach our goals,” said Nancy Mahon, Chief Sustainability Officer, The Estée Lauder Companies. “We are honored to continue our partnership with Lonely Whale to help advance the integration of innovative, seaweed-based packaging materials across the fashion and beauty industries and beyond.”

*Breaking the Plastic Wave: A Comprehensive Assessment of Pathways Towards Stopping Ocean Plastic Pollution, (2020). The Pew Charitable Trusts and SYSTEMIQ. Page 26.

In 2020, Lonely Whale unveiled “Unwrap the Future,” a three phase, multi-year program to vet and scale viable, marine-safe solutions to traditional thin-film plastic. For phase one of the program, the TOM FORD Plastic Innovation Prize was created in partnership with Lonely Whale. In March 2023, prize winners, Sway, Zerocircle and Notpla were announced at the Green Carpet Fashion Awards. The awarded $1.2 million Prize Purse was a combination cash prize and direct investment presented by Title Sponsors TOM FORD BEAUTY and The Estée Lauder Companies, and Phillip Sarofim’s Trousdale Ventures, the venture capital partner of the Prize.

The launch of the TOM FORD Plastic Innovation Accelerator marks phase two of Lonely Whale’s “Unwrap the Future” program and celebrates the continued commitment of the brand’s investment in innovation to design and support a regenerative future.

“Unveiling the winners of the TOM FORD Plastic Innovation Prize was merely the first step. It’s now essential to expedite capital access for these companies as they expand, replacing detrimental plastics with solutions rooted in nature,” stated Philip Sarofim, the founder of Trousdale Ventures. “Innovation remains at the core of our investment ethos, and we’re excited to witness the transformative impact these enterprises will usher in, paving the way for a more promising tomorrow by safeguarding the health of our planet.”

“I am thoroughly inspired by the ingenuity, dedication and passion shown by the Prize winners, Sway, Zerocircle and Notpla, and the ongoing investment in innovation from our partners at TOM FORD BEAUTY, The Estée Lauder Companies, and Phillip Sarofim’s Trousdale Ventures.” said Lucy Sumner, co-founder of Lonely Whale. “Alongside the Early Adopter Coalition, recently joined by packaging systems leader Atlantic Packaging, these brands are actively demonstrating the type of radical collaboration needed to develop concrete and dynamic solutions that ensure the long-term health and prosperity of our ocean.”

Brands interested in joining as members of the Early Adopter Coalition can reach out to hello@lonelywhale.org to learn more. More information about the TOM FORD Plastic Innovation Accelerator can be found at unwrapthefuture.org.

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