Rice straw: it could be something you have never heard of. This waste – which comes from the rice production process – is often burned after the harvest. This happens in India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and more countries. The result: smog and air pollution. Research carried out by MVO Nederland and the Dutch embassy in India in 2018 found that it’s easy to process rice straw and turn it into products such as sustainable packaging, paper and furniture panels. This gave us hope.

MVO Nederland then brought nine companies and organisations together who wanted to make sustainable packaging and other products in India from rice straw. Dutch companies including PaperWise, Bio4Pack and Ecor signed a joint agreement with multinationals such as Mars and LT Foods in which they expressed their commitment to bring rice straw products to the marketplace by 2020 at the latest. This means they are helping to create both cleaner air and additional income for rice farmers in India.

Although the technology to make the packaging already existed, until recently the chain itself lacked the collaborative partners needed to create an effective business model. These partners have now been brought together, thanks to MVO Nederland. A group of Dutch companies, multinationals and Indian partners are now setting to work.

The agreement also serves as a framework for a properly organised production chain. This chain requires inputs of straw from the rice fields, high-quality production facilities in India, a well-developed sales market, a fair price for all partners involved and a focus on sustainable production at the rice fields themselves.

Maria van der Heijden, MVO Nederland director: ‘It is wonderful to see that we can encourage multinationals and SMEs to apply sustainable business models. Business models that help to solve the challenges faced by society such as air pollution and deforestation. It also demonstrates how we – with our network of companies – can bring about a rapid transition to a New Economy.’

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