November 05, 2021

Literally green Euglena makes nutritious food products and eco-friendly biofuels from algae

Mitsuru Izumo

The Sustainable Japan Network, established in June through a merger of The Japan Times’ ESG Consortium and Satoyama Consortium, organized the awards ceremony for the Sustainable Japan Award 2021 on Sept. 28 online to recognize companies, organizations and municipalities that have made noteworthy achievements mainly in the areas of ESG (environmental, social and governance) practices and the preservation and sustainable utilization of satoyama resources.

“Satoyama” refers to rural mountains and forests that are kept intact by residents through careful use and maintenance.

The annual Sustainable Japan Award — originally the Japan Times Satoyama and ESG Awards, launched in 2019 — selected nine prizewinners from diverse sectors and industries. The Grand Prize went to Euglena Co. Ltd., a venture company engaging in the research, development and commercialization of the nutrient-rich algae euglena, mainly to be used in the fields of health care and energy.

In celebration of the winning of the Grand Prize, President Mitsuru Izumo made a speech online from his company’s lab.

The concept for the company came out of Izumo’s experience of seeing children suffering from malnutrition in Bangladesh back when he was in university. In the course of his academic pursuit to find highly nutritious food sources, he came across Euglena, and started the company in 2005 to turn Euglena into food products.

In addition to contributing to the health of many through the sale of Euglena food products, the company has provided more than 10 million packs of cookies with nutritious Euglena to children in Bangladesh since 2014 through the Euglena Genki Program.

The company also produces biofuels made from used cooking oil and Euglena oil. The company supplies its biofuels to about 30 companies and aims to further promote and expand its use to realize the Euglena corporate philosophy, “Sustainability First.”

“In June this year, the first flight of a jet aircraft filled up with the bio-jet fuel developed by the company was achieved successfully.

We invested ¥10 billion [$90 million] and spent 10 years to develop this bio-jet fuel,” Izumo said, showing his enthusiasm over making contributes to reduction of carbon dioxide emissions bio-jet fuel a country that is not an oil producer.

In recent years, Euglena established a consortium with multiple companies and organizations to conduct joint research and development of biomass plastics using a kind of polysaccharide called paramylon, a unique component of Euglena. The company also launched a research farm in Saga City named Sustainable Tech Farm to utilize fertilizer made of Euglena to achieve circular agriculture.

Euglena is also keen to reflect the ideas and thoughts of the younger generation to realize a better future. It is the first listed company to create the post of CFO (chief future officer), offered to a youth age 18 or younger. The CFO takes the initiative in making positive changes for the future of the company and society.

Euglena is also making efforts in procuring funds on the global stage. “We undertook stock issuing and public stock offering to foreign institutional investors for the first time this year,” Izumo said, but noted that they were faced with the hard fact that Euglena was as yet little-known. Still, it has now been more than two years since algae grown by the company became the first algae to receive certificates from the Marine Stewardship Council and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, two major international organizations that certify aquatic products caught or grown in sustainable ways, after the company persuaded them to establish algae categories.

“When I explain this to foreign investors, they are impressed and say they want to support us. I really felt the importance of showcasing Japan’s startups and technologies. As a startup, I feel encouraged by the prize and the recognition,” Izumo said.

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