IIT Kanpur

Virendra Singh Rawat / Lucknow

Fleather – a revolutionary alternative to leather developed by a startup incubated at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur – is in contention for a prestigious environmental award.

IIT Kanpur-incubated Phool.co has been selected as one of the 15 finalists for the Second Annual Earthshot Prize Awards, which were launched in 2020 by Prince William.

Fleather, a regenerative approach to creating leather out of floral waste, is one of the only two innovations shortlisted from India this year.

The startup, Phool.co was founded by Ankit Agarwal and Prateek Kumar in July 2017 with critical incubation support from the Startup Incubation and Innovation Centre (SIIC), the technology business incubator of IIT Kanpur.

Fleather will be in the running to receive a £1 million award at the second-annual Earthshot Prize awards ceremony to be held on Dec 2 in Boston. It was shortlisted in ‘The Earthshot Prize to Build A Waste-Free World’ category.

The finalists were selected from over 1,000 nominations following a rigorous 10-month selection process by a panel of advisors with expertise in science, conservation, innovation, investment, economics, politics and activism.

While unveiling the finalists, Prince William said, “The innovators, leaders, and visionaries that have made it to the 2022 Earthshot finalists prove there are many reasons to be optimistic about the future of our planet. They are directing their time, energy, and talent towards bold solutions with the power to not only solve our planet’s greatest environmental challenges, but to create healthier, more prosperous, and more sustainable communities for generations to come.”

IIT Kanpur director Prof Abhay Karandikar said, “From transforming flower waste into incense sticks to creating the vegan alternative to animal leather – Fleather, the sustainable model that the startup has been following truly benefits the environment and helps the economy grow. Their support to underprivileged families and rural women through employment is an inspiring model in itself.”

In addition to their eligibility for the £1 million prize, all finalists will receive tailored support and resources from the Earthshot Prize Global Alliance Members, an unprecedented network of private sector businesses around the world committed to helping scale innovative climate and environmental solutions and multiplying their impact.

Since its inception, more than 11,060 tonnes of flower waste collected every day from the temples in Uttar Pradesh, especially from the ghats of river Ganga, has been recycled at Phool.co.

Through flower cycling, it stops 7,600 kg of waste flowers and 97 kg of toxic chemicals from getting into the river every day, along with providing livelihood to 1,200 rural families and employment to 73 women ‘flowercyclers’ to create Fleather.

Meanwhile, big fashion houses like Anita Dongre have also shown interest in Fleather – a breathable and tensile material and sustainable leather alternative felicitated by PETA India at the CDC ’20.

Founded by Prince William and The Royal Foundation in 2020, The Earthshot Prize is a global green prize to discover, accelerate, and scale ground-breaking solutions to repair and regenerate the planet.

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Inspired by President John F Kennedy’s Moonshot, which united millions of people around the goal of reaching the moon, the Earthshot Prize aims to catalyse an Earthshot challenge to urgently encourage and scale innovative solutions that can help put the world firmly on a trajectory towards a stable climate, where communities, oceans, and oceans, and biodiversity thrive in harmony by 2030.

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