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How ‘Climate Pioneer’ Lenzing Supports Industry Decarbonization

As the fashion industry takes on the mantle of climate action, wood-based cellulosic fiber manufacturer Lenzing has embraced its responsibility and role as a “climate pioneer,” encouraging an industry-wide shift towards carbon neutrality. The company was the first cellulosic fiber producer to set and receive approval for its science-based targets by the Science-Based Target Initiative (SBTi) in 2019, establishing the goal of halving its specific carbon emissions across scopes 1, 2 and 3 by 2030 compared to a 2017 baseline. By 2050, Lenzing’s target is to be completely carbon neutral.

“Achieving net-zero by 2050 has been our vision since 2019,” said Krishna Manda, vice president of corporate sustainability at Lenzing. “As we continue to advance circularity within our operations and in the textile and nonwoven industry landscape, reducing carbon emissions remains our strategic focus and commitment.”

Lenzing has already made commendable progress toward its targets; in 2022, it achieved an 18 percent reduction in specific carbon emissions compared to its 2017 baseline. The company’s efforts also earned it an AAA from CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project). Lenzing was one of only 12 firms that received this score in 2022, which indicates top marks for management and disclosures of climate change mitigation, water protection and forest conservation.

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A leader in fiber sustainability, Lenzing is also encouraging the decarbonization of value chains by developing a growing portfolio of carbon-neutral fibers for textiles and nonwovens. These carbon-neutral fibers are certified for their carbon reduction plans and efforts, their carbon footprint measurement in accordance with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol framework, and the compensation of unabated carbon emissions through financing carbon compensation projects. By following the approach of “reduce, engage, offset” and the increasing market interest for these fibers, Lenzing has in recent years expanded in its carbon-neutral offerings to include both TENCEL™ and VEOCEL™ branded fibers.

Route toward carbon-zero nonwovens

This spring, the group’s robust array of carbon-neutral fibers is growing again with the introduction of responsible viscose fibers for nonwovens under the VEOCEL™ brand. These fibers will be available starting May 1 in the United States and Europe. On top of that, in the second half of this year, Lenzing plans to finish converting its Asia-based viscose capacity over to specialty sustainable fiber types.

Krishna Manda, vice president of corporate sustainability at Lenzing. Courtesy of Lenzing

“Not only are we focusing on the reduction of our carbon emissions, we are also actively identifying ways to empower our supply chain partners, consumer brands and consumers to do the same,” said Manda. “The expansion of Lenzing’s carbon-neutral fiber offering to VEOCEL™ branded viscose fibers in Europe and the U.S. is a natural next step for us to drive the decarbonization of the nonwovens value chain and have a positive impact on the environment.”

Lenzing follows one integral strategy in making products of a carbon-neutral nature possible: It first reduces production-related emissions to the greatest possible extent and engages supply chain partners to reduce their emissions. Any remaining unavoidable carbon emissions are then calculated and offset through the financing of carbon compensation projects in partnership with ClimatePartner, a global leader in corporate climate action program development. These projects include initiatives such as reforestation, wind energy and biogas investments that are credible and have a positive, carbon-compensating impact.

“These global carbon offset projects are an immediate response to ensure that an equivalent amount of carbon is absorbed or avoided elsewhere,” said Manda. “However, we are further reducing our operations and value chain emissions continuously every year, thus requiring less offsets year after year.”

The new carbon-neutral VEOCEL™ viscose fibers are made at Lenzing’s Austrian plant, which has built-in efficiencies and infrastructure that allow for a lower carbon footprint. This includes the use of renewable energy sources like bioenergy, resulting from the integration of pulp and fiber production in one facility and a ground-mounted solar photovoltaic plant. The low-impact VEOCEL™ viscose manufacturing method at the Austrian plant recovers chemicals and creates co-products, making the most of wood inputs.

VEOCEL™ fibers are strong and absorbent yet soft on the skin, ideal for a range of nonwoven applications. In beauty, this includes products such as facial sheet masks, makeup wipes or makeup pads. VEOCEL™ is also a fit for wipes—including personal care wipes for all ages as well as household surface cleaning wipes. The fibers are also appropriate for intimate care, such as diapers and sanitary pads.

Since all Lenzing fibers are made from the renewable raw material wood, they can return to nature at the end of their life cycles given their capability to biodegrade and compost in most environmental conditions. While biodegradability is increasingly sought-after in fashion to lower the impact of wardrobe changes, this is even more beneficial for disposable, single-use care items. VEOCEL™ fibers have been certified to biodegrade in environments including home composting. Comparatively, many competitive products are made of fossil fuel-based materials that persist rather than biodegrade.

“Sustainability is quickly transforming into a necessity for consumers in the personal care segment, and consumers are increasingly aware of the impact that their everyday products have on the environment,” noted Manda. “Lenzing remains committed to working with brands and industry bodies to help develop stringent environmental standards and raise awareness among end users to support the nonwovens industry in reducing its impact on the environment.”

Click here to learn more about VEOCEL™, and read Lenzing’s latest sustainability report.