Decoding Sustainability:

Six Sustainable Material Categories Explained 

According to IMCD’s Global Customer Trends Survey 2023-2024, Green & Circular is the most impactful megatrend in the next two years, with 34% of our customers ranking it above all other trends.

Yet, the journey toward sustainability can be complex due to the lack of transparent, consistent definitions. 
Selecting the right materials 

To facilitate this journey towards sustainability, it's important to select the right materials. However, formulators often encounter challenges when navigating through various definitions and concepts that may convey similar meanings.  

To address this, we've taken steps through our Sustainable Solutions programme to align the industry’s definitions and avoid greenwashing. As part of this effort, we aim to simplify the material selection process by organising our sustainable materials into six categories, which are the most relevant in our industry.  

Each category adheres to specific rules based on leading sustainability standards. This approach ensures that materials undergo rigorous evaluation in line with predefined standards, providing documented evidence of their sustainability benefits. 
Six sustainable categories 

  • Circular & Renewable: Materials in this category aim to reduce dependency on fossil-based resources. They embrace circularity by harnessing renewable, bio-based, recycled, or waste materials, thereby contributing to a more sustainable resource ecosystem. Examples include:

  • Biobased

  • Biodegradable

  • Low fossil-based content

  • Recyclable

  • Upcycling & Waste to raw material


  • Durability & Maintenance: Enhancing the longevity of final formulations, these materials not only improve performance but also decrease maintenance needs. This translates to significant resource savings over a product's lifecycle. Examples include:

  • Easy to Clean

  • Lifetime extending


  • Emissions, Waste & Resources: These materials reduce or eliminate emissions and waste from cradle to grave, helping to achieve a lower carbon footprint as a result. Examples include:

  • CO2 reducing

  • Contamination free

  • Land use reducing

  • Reducing Packaging & Transport

  • Shelf life improving

  • Solvent free

  • VOC reducing

  • Water reducing


  • Material Efficiency & Innovation: Materials here achieve comparable or superior performance while demanding fewer resources. This is achieved through the optimization of active ingredients, volume solids, or overall formulation performance. Examples include:

  • Material use reducing

  • Volume solids increasing


  • People, Health & Safety: Prioritizing the well-being of both users and the environment, these materials eliminate hazardous substances or enable the formulation of safer products by replacing concerning substances. Examples include:

  • Biocide free

  • SVHC replacement


  • Productivity & Energy Savings: Think of materials that increase productivity or reduce the need of energy in the manufacturing process and during application, or that have properties that deliver energy savings in the end useExamples include:

  • Curing temperature reducing

  • Energy reducing

  • Fast drying & setting

  • Insulating & cooling

  • Manufacturing process improvement


How can our programme support you  

If you're searching for the ideal materials to advance your sustainability goals, you can rely on the support of our Sustainable Solutions programme.

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