Estée Lauder partner with International Space Station on Sustainability Research

by | Nov 8, 2021

Estée Lauder has announced its role as the exclusive partner of the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory Sustainability Challenge: Beyond Plastics.

The ISS National Lab Sustainability Challenge: Beyond Plastics aims to utilise the orbiting laboratory to advance sustainability research which addresses the plastics dilemma we currently face.


The Sustainability Challenge is open for U.S.-based entities to propose flight projects that leverage the space station to tackle plastics waste, and enable scientific or technological advancements that improve the Earth’s environment. Building on the brand’s long-term sustainability goals, Estée Lauder intends to provide funding to support one or more flight projects awarded through this Sustainability Challenge.


Plastic waste is highly prevalent on the Earth. It is in the land, the sea, and the atmosphere. The ISS represents a one-of-a-kind platform that is capable of enabling scientific and technological discoveries which can mitigate the widespread effects of plastic pollution. In 2019, the ISS National Lab held a sustainability workshop focused on how the orbiting laboratory could address plastic pollution in Earth’s environment. This Sustainability Challenge builds on the workshop’s recommendations to address the plastics dilemma through the design and production of sustainable polymers aided by access to space.


The objective of the Sustainability Challenge is to use the unique ISS environment to develop, test, or mature products and processes that address at least one of the following goals:

  • Reduce plastic waste introduction into the environment
  • Seek alternative feedstocks and pathways for polymer production beyond petrochemicals
  • Reduce virgin plastic manufacturing


“We are so proud to be the funding partner of this ISS National Lab Sustainability Challenge. As a brand built on creativity and innovation, Estée Lauder is committed to fostering pioneering ideas in the areas of science and sustainability. Our hope is this challenge will give researchers the opportunity to submit ground-breaking concepts that may one day in the near future improve Earth’s environment.”

– Stéphane de La Faverie, Global Brand President, Estée Lauder & AERIN, and Group President, The Estée Lauder Companies.


The Sustainability Challenge seeks concepts that leverage the ISS National Lab for applied research and technology demonstration or maturation. Concepts could be in existing or emerging technology areas that reduce plastic waste and consumption of water, energy, and/or petrochemical feedstocks in our environment. Concepts that promise to address either the virgin production of polymers through sustainable feedstocks, or the end-of-life of polymers to be biodegraded or upcycled, are desired. Ideal concepts will address both through a whole-of-life design approach which accounts for cradle-to-grave (biodegrading), or cradle-to-cradle (recycling or upcycling) approaches.


“The ISS National Lab is an off-Earth innovation platform that enables research and development that could lead to the discovery of unique solutions to sustainability challenges on Earth. We applaud Estee Lauder in their efforts to identify real-world solutions for global-scale issues through their support of the ISS National Lab Sustainability Challenge: Beyond Plastics. Through this challenge, we hope to reach audiences that will leverage the ISS National Lab to develop and test novel technologies to replace petroleum-based plastics. We look forward to working with the research community to explore new approaches that will benefit Earth through improvements in the chemical assembly and disassembly of plastics alternatives.”

– Michael Roberts, Ph.D., acting chief scientist for the ISS National Laboratory. 


On March 19, 2022, a Sustainability Challenge event will be held at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The one-day event will include a session in which the finalists’ recorded presentations will be showcased and livestreamed to a global audience. The event will also include a ceremony to recognize the top three ranked finalists.

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