As sustainability swiftly sweeps across the fashion industry, brands and retailers are increasingly scouting solutions that drive momentum toward a greener market economy. And for fiber firm Lenzing, a fervent focus on forests – and the evolution of wood-based sustainable raw materials – is its panacea for further progress in the space.
One of the brightest stars in Lenzing’s constellation is TENCEL™, the firm’s branded lyocell and modal fibers produced by environmentally responsible processes from sustainably sourced and natural raw material wood. In celebration of its 30th anniversary this year for TENCEL™, the firm is sporting the tagline “Feel Good Fibers Since 1992,” a proclamation to its long-standing commitment to fiber innovation.
Its latest campaign, aptly titled “Wood You” emphasizes the sustainable sourcing of its wood – a natural and renewable raw material – that is grown, harvested, and processed sustainably directly or indirectly from a wide variety of wood types that originate from different tree species and regions, all of which are derived from sustainably managed forests or plantations. Accompanied by its “We Wood. With Wood” slogan, Lenzing is leading the push for the “forest fashion cycle.”
Almost 65 percent of global fabric consumption consists of synthetic fibers from fossil fuels, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) – but the industry is making significant strides against the Old-World methods for materials and sourcing. Global retailers such as H&M and Zara integrate textiles made with wood-based fibers into its collections, as well as the usual suspects such as Reformation, Stella McCartney, Patagonia, and The North Face, among many others.
Improvement in wood value chains also emerges through the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which have become a widely known and adopted benchmark for brands and retailers to measure their own successes in sustainability.
For example, Adidas, which recently debuted its first hoodie made with wood-based fibers, has progressed its adoption of the SDGs through responsible consumption and production (SDG 12). Or Levi Strauss & Co., in partnership with forest preservation initiative Canopy, sources 100 percent of its wood-based fibers through the firm to protect the world’s ancient and endangered forests from taking part in the supply chain (SDG 17).
From Forest to Factory
But for Lenzing, its evolution of sustainable raw materials takes form in pushing the proverbial limits.
Lenzing’s REFIBRA™ proprietary technology upcycles cotton scraps by converting them into cotton pulp, and up to one-third of it is added to wood pulp, resulting in a combined raw material that is transformed to produce new virgin TENCEL™ lyocell fibers that make fabrics and garments. The vision is to make cellulose fiber recycling as common as paper recycling, and one way to work towards this is to keep materials in constant circulation via the forest fashion cycle. To dramatically reduce waste and go one step further in its mission for circular fashion, they launched carbon-zero TENCEL™ fibers, made with REFIBRA™ technology.
Marking its one-year anniversary for its expansion of TENCEL™ branded lyocell and modal fibers to carbon-zero status this past September, its aim to provide solutions for fashion brands to meet carbon reduction targets – and Lenzing’s own commitment to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 – through its REFIBRA™ technology has been adopted by brands and mills across the value chain, such as JACK & JONES and World Textile Sourcing.
The firm also embarked on a collaboration with Södra, a Swedish pulp producer, with the joint goal of processing 25,000 tons of textile waste per year by 2025 down from millions of tons of waste currently created every year, with the majority ending up in landfills. Together, the firms developed wood based OnceMore® pulp, which will be used as a raw material to produce Lenzing’s TENCEL™ x REFIBRA™ branded fibers.
These key innovations and partnerships set a strategic direction for realizing an industry-wide transition to forest-based fabrics, which are a viable solution to the use or replacement of fossil-based and agricultural products – and using wood from sustainably managed forests supports biodiversity, too.
Nicole Rycroft, Founder and Executive Director at Canopy, said that “In this turn around decade for our planet, making forest-based fabrics from recycled textiles is critical to protect biodiversity, alleviate pressure on forests and address the growing climate crisis. Canopy is excited to see these two major producers join forces to bring vital Next Generation Solutions to the fashion industry. We look forward to seeing greater commercial volumes come to market.”
And for Lenzing, its achievements of late serve as momentum to keep going, and with speed. In the last reporting year, Lenzing received a triple ‘A’ rating on the CDP scoring, achieving a “dark green shirt” for the second time in Canopy’s Hot Button Report. Lenzing also went the extra mile by shifting the transportation of some inbound materials from road to rail, improving its own carbon footprint.
Florian Heubrandner, Vice President Global Textiles Business at Lenzing AG, said that “Although more supply chain partners, brands, and retailers are proactively searching for ways to reduce carbon emissions to align with the United Nation’s global climate goals, the textile industry still has a long journey ahead to reach its goal of carbon-zero status.”
“We hope that, by sharing our latest innovations such as the carbon-zero TENCEL™ branded fibers with REFIBRA™ technology, we can make carbon-zero initiatives mainstream practices – ultimately achieving a carbon neutral textile industry.”