FAQS

Working and volunteering with MII

How can I help?

There are multiple ways to help MII. Some of them are:

  • Donate: We are a small nonprofit using every dollar we earn to meet our mission. Your gift of any size helps us reduce the harm to animals and the environment in the fashion, automotive, and home goods industries. Visit our Support Us page.
  • Connect: We share a lot of expert information on next-gen materials through our newsletter, events, and social media platforms. Visit our Contact Us page or sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date on the latest in material innovation. 
  • Share: Please share our work with anyone interested in sustainability in the fashion, automotive, and home goods industries. 
  • Work with us: When you see a job on our website that interests you, please apply! We rely on our awesome team to make great things happen. Please visit our Careers page to learn about current job opportunities. 
  • Intern: We often offer internships with our programmatic departments during the summer. Our website will list any open internships, and we invite you to apply to the department you are interested in. Please visit our Careers page to learn about current internship opportunities. 
  • Volunteer: Do you have a special skill you believe can help our mission? Please email hiring@materialinnovation.org to ask about volunteering. We are particularly interested in pro bono legal assistance, advisory members familiar with components of our work, and administrative help. Since we are a small organization, it isn’t always possible to host volunteers, but please let us know if you are available and interested.

How can I get a job at MII?

Thanks for your interest in working with us. Please visit our Careers page to learn about job opportunities or sign up to receive our newsletter.

Please note that at this time, we are unable to store CVs or resumes for prospective jobs.

Tell me more about the MII workplace and culture.

We’d love to! It’s one of our favorite parts of MII (other than saving the environment and helping all animals, of course). Please visit our MII Culture page to learn more.

If you have additional questions, please get in touch with our Human Resources team at operations@materialinnovation.org.

Funding

Is MII a for-profit organization?

MII is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with EIN 84-3847333. Our Board of Directors has financial oversight of the organization, and we do not make a profit.

How does MII fund itself?

MII relies on charitable contributions from philanthropic foundations, corporations, and individual donors for our programs and operations-related expenditure. We also welcome sponsorship support for special initiatives, event series, and research fellowships.

Please visit our Funding page to learn more about MII’s financial transparency and future goals.

How does MII allocate its funding?

MII uses its funding to pay our staff a living wage, offer benefits, and keep our programming successful. In fact, salaries and benefits for our staff comprise around 60% of our annual expenditure, including staff located outside the US. This underlines the importance we place in ensuring our staff are compensated fairly and, as such, results in less turnover. MII also believes in paying for the expertise of our consultants and compensating accordingly for their time.

MII is an entirely remote workplace, meaning we save money on rent and supplies we might otherwise spend to work in-office.

The majority of our funding is used to identify and assist in creating and scaling sustainable, next-gen materials and working with fashion, home goods, and automotive industries to replace materials that are harmful to animals and the environment in their products.

Can I fund a specific project?

We would love to talk to you about funding a specific project, although we do not let funding dictate our programming. Please write to us at devteam@materialinnovation.org.

Sustainability

What are next-gen materials, and why are they better?

We define “next-gen materials” as materials that are animal-free and more sustainable than incumbent (animal-based) and current-gen (petrochemical-based) materials and that replicate the high performance of the materials they are designed to replace. MII currently focuses on replacements for conventional animal-based leather, silk, down, fur, wool, and exotic skins. These next-gen replacement materials use a variety of biomimicry approaches to replicate the aesthetics and performance of their animal-based counterparts.

The next-gen material industry can help in reducing:

  • animal cruelty
  • greenhouse gas emissions
  • biodiversity loss
  • resource depletion
  • environmental degradation
  • public health risks

Next-gen materials are often made from locally abundant and renewable resources, promote circularity, and advance the bioeconomy.

Why is sustainability in materials important?

Currently, the fashion industry contributes over 10% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, which is more than the shipping and aviation industries combined. Moreover, emissions from the textiles industry are projected to climb to over 25% by 2050. The fashion industry also exploits our natural resources, accumulates waste in our landfills and oceans, and contributes to a staggering loss of biodiversity. Fashion brands have noted that their raw material choices contribute to most of these impacts. Therefore, with a need to meet consumer demand and revolutionize the next-gen material industry via transparency of product design. The fashion industry must follow a sustainable production and consumption approach that will enable a systemic change in the fashion industry.

For fashion to be truly sustainable, it is necessary to dig deeper into the supply chain. It has been estimated that more than 70% of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are attributed to upstream activities such as raw material production and processing, with the remaining 30% of the GHG emissions due to downstream use-phase and end-of-life (EOL) impacts. Animal-derived materials such as silk, leather and wool are repeatedly associated with exceedingly high environmental impacts across various impact categories such as GHG emissions, land use, water scarcity, and nutrient runoff.

When do we expect next-gen materials to get to market?

RethinkX, an independent think tank that analyzes the speed and scale of technology-driven disruptions, predicts that demand for animal-based leather will decrease by more than 90% by 2030, driven by advances in next-gen materials technology like precision fermentation. This level of industry transformation is possible, but it is not inevitable. Virtually all top fashion brands have taken an active interest in sourcing more sustainable materials. Still, no options can meet all of the industry’s needs in terms of performance, scale, and cost.

Today, many replacements for animal-based materials contain petroleum-derived plastics. Many companies face challenges while trying to completely eliminate petro-chemicals from their materials, which is why we need more innovation and R&D.

Currently, clothing is rarely recycled, even if the material is technically recyclable at certain facilities. While hybrid products don’t solve this end-of-life problem, they can significantly shrink the overall environmental footprint of the product by sourcing more sustainable inputs. As we continue to work toward solutions for end-of-life disposal, it makes sense to embrace progress over perfection and not delay making a positive impact where we can.

MII is an entirely remote workplace, meaning we save money on rent and supplies we might otherwise spend to work in-office.

The majority of our funding is used to identify and assist in creating and scaling sustainable, next-gen materials and working with fashion, home goods, and automotive industries to replace materials that are harmful to animals and the environment in their products.

Innovation

How can I get onto your Innovators Database?

Use the “request to add a company” button on the Innovators Database page to apply. The database only lists companies that:
are creating materials that biomimic and replace animal-based leather, silk, wool, fur, down, and/or exotic skins;
do not use any animal-based inputs in their production process;
are more sustainable alternatives to “current-gen” replacement options (see our Methodology for more details).

How do you work with material companies?

MII creates resources and tools that support next-gen materials companies (i.e., companies creating sustainable alternatives to animal-based materials). Freely available reports and databases help these companies gain industry insights, support their fundraising efforts, expose them to other industry stakeholders, including investors and brands, and obtain up-to-date data to inform their positioning and strategies. MII also curates webinars and conferences, giving material companies a stage and facilitating valuable connections to grow their businesses. Fundraising next-gen materials companies can expand their reach to potential investors through MII’s fundraising database. MII provides initial sustainability consultation and introduction to Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for newer material companies looking to assess their impacts on the environment.

How do you work with investors?

MII creates resources and tools that ignite investor interest in funding the next-gen materials industry and provide continued support for investors venturing into this nascent space. Freely available reports and databases help investors gain industry insights, find attractive opportunities and deal flow, and obtain up-to-date data to inform their positioning and strategies. MII also curates different webinars and conferences, facilitating valuable connections among startups, investors, and established businesses.

Brand Partnerships

How do you work with fashion, automotive, and home goods companies?

MII provides industry-leading expertise to brands for navigating the next-gen ecosystem. Our Brand Engagement department is the leading resource for global brands to obtain crucial information about emerging and existing next-gen material technologies. MII’s exclusive brand partnerships opportunity offers insight into the development of next-gen materials, including positioning advice and support, access to science and innovation experts, specialized sourcing guidance, and introductions to next-gen materials suppliers. Additionally, we have expertise in environmental impact assessments and can advise brands on integrating innovative materials into their ESG strategies to meet their sustainability goals. We can also assist with research & development roadmaps and advise on the positioning of next-gen materials.

I want to learn more about sourcing next-gen materials. Where should I start?

First, look internally by identifying the specific design problem you are trying to solve or the need you are trying to fill. Then develop a list of potential solutions with a design thinking approach. Once you have your ‘problem’ statement and proposed solutions, start exploring all the sourcing options. By visiting our regularly updated database, you can get a snapshot of innovators in the space and explore suppliers with materials that can potentially solve your design problem.

What should I keep in mind when sourcing next-gen materials from material companies?

Once you identify target suppliers, you can start contacting them to establish a relationship. Here are some tips to keep in mind during this process:
Most next-gen materials companies are still in research and development rather than commercial-scale production. They are in the start-up stage and need marketing and sales teams, because of which you may experience delayed responses to inquiries. Consider partnering or investing in them to hasten the process.

Many next-gen materials are not ‘plug and play’ replacements for animal materials and do not yet meet all the performance criteria. Expect that you will have to process tune to meet your specifications or consider revising performance metrics to explore the new material. Ensure you ask the next-gen material company about this issue if you need a ‘plug and play’ option.

Remember that next-gen materials will consistently improve. Most next-gen materials go to market with a minimum viable product while continuing to refine and improve their material’s performance, aesthetic, and environmental impact. Even though many current next-gen materials contain some percentage of petrochemical-derived synthetics (e.g., polyurethane, PU), they are still expected to have a much lower impact than animal-based and 100% synthetic materials. Most next-gen materials companies plan to iterate until they reach the north star of 100% bio-based. MII understands that this can be quite a daunting and time-consuming process which is why we can help! Please see our Brand Partnerships page to learn more about how we can help you navigate this space.

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