RCI’s scientific background report: “Case studies based on peer-reviewed Life Cycle Assessments – Carbon footprints of different carbon-based chemicals and materials” (November 2023)



In this brochure, the RCI (https://renewable-carbon-initiative.com) presents five peer-reviewed LCA case studies – representing the highest possible scientific standard – that examine the carbon footprint of materials and products made from renewable carbon. These case studies are on products from RCI member companies Avantium (NL), BASF (DE), IFF (US), Lenzing (AT), Neste (FI) and all LCAs have been peer-reviewed by external experts. The LCAs have been summarised by experts of nova-Institutes sustainability team.

The case studies visualise that there are not only competitive materials and products made of renewable carbon already on the market, but that they also come with significantly lower carbon footprints ranging from 30–90%.

A key aspect of replacing fossil carbon with renewable carbon is the gained circularity of carbon. The less additional fossil carbon is added to our above-ground cycle of atmosphere, biosphere and technosphere, the smaller will be the amount of carbon emissions that have to be balanced out with expensive atmospheric removal and underground storage of carbon.

It is essential to recognise that the carbon footprint of renewable carbon-based materials is not automatically close to zero for two primary reasons:

  • Fossil energy in the value chain
  • Ongoing innovation and optimisation

All in all, the here presented materials and products show reduced carbon footprints already today, which lowers the remaining emissions gap so that less CO2 needs to be removed from the atmosphere in the future. At the same time, these materials and products still have significant potential to further reduce emissions in the future.

nova-Institute and RCI: Mika Plum, Niels de Beus, Ferdinand Kähler, Ángel Puente, Pauline Ruiz, Nadja Wulff, Matthias Stratmann, Christopher vom Berg, Michael Carus
Date of publication
Nov 2023
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