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Lenzing Leads in Clean, Green Viscose

The Lenzing Group, a global supplier of sustainably produced specialty fibers, achieved first place in the “Hot Button Ranking” of the Canadian non-profit organization Canopy.

The Canopy Hot Button Report is a detailed matrix of viscose producer performance. In 2022, Canopy said it had an unprecedented number of producers earn “dark green shirts,” increasing from two last year, to six this year. Within the Hot Button Ranking, a “green shirt” designation is based on the number of buttons allocated and this ranking signals to the marketplace that these producers have met, or are on course to meet, the requirements of these brands and retailers who are part of the CanopyStyle initiative.

Lenzing achieved the top score, at 32 buttons; Aditya Birla earned 31.5, and tied at 30 each were Tangshan Sanyou, Eastman, Jilin and Xinxiang Chemical Fiber Co. (Bailu Group). Canopy noted that these last four companies have been moving up the ladder quickly, and could soon be challenging the “strong and consistent leadership” Canopy has seen since 2016 from Aditya Birla and Lenzing.

“We are very pleased that the steps we are taking as the Lenzing Group to continuously improve and find solutions to the most pressing problems of our time are being seen and honored,” said Robert van de Kerkhof, chief commercial officer for fiber of the Lenzing Group. “We are working hard to make our industries even more sustainable and to drive the transformation of the textile business model from linear to circular. Further efforts from the entire industry are needed for this transformation to take place.”

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With its Refibra and Eco Cycle technologies, Lenzing offers solutions for transforming the textile and nonwovens industries toward a circular economy. A milestone on this path is the cooperation with the Swedish pulp producer Södra in which they are joining forces to produce fibers from post-consumer textiles.

Today, Lenzing offers lyocell fibers made from 30 percent recycled cotton waste. The company aims to launch lyocell, modal and viscose staple fibers with up to 50 percent recycled post-consumer content on a commercial scale by 2025 and to develop a new circular business model by closing the loops for post-consumer waste. By 2025, the company plans to enter into further partnerships with 25 key supply chain companies.

The CanopyStyle initiative provides a path for brands, retailers and man-made cellulosic fiber (MMCF) producers to help address the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss by reducing the sectors’ pressure on forests. Since 2016, the Hot Button Report has provided an annual incentive for continual improvement toward sustainability and a vehicle for engaging a supply chain that was previously not very well understood.

The percentage of global fiber production from producers earning “green shirts” has risen to 53 percent in 2022 from 50 percent last year. However, there was a widening in the gap between producers that are engaged and taking action to improve, and the few remaining “red shirts.”

Eleven producers improved their ranking by at least one shirt color this year and three jumped a full two shirt colors ahead. Kara Fibers got special mention as most improved by moving from 7.5 buttons in 2021 to 28 buttons in 2022. Mitsubishi Chemical Group earned 9.5 buttons more than in 2021 to earn a “light green shirt,” and Acegreen got 8.5 more points than 2021, to earn a partial “dark green shirt.”

“This year we also saw a significant amount of activity from Japanese producers,” Canopy said. ‘Mitsubishi’s impressive gains…came about partially as a result of engaging their supplier, Daicel, and working with them to pursue their own audit. New to the Hot Button Report, Daiwabo has shown a strong start with a “light green shirt” and early leadership on Next Generation fiber integration.

This year was a busy one for CanopyStyle Audits, with three producers publishing their audits and five currently undertaking audits and expected to publish in late 2022.  Producers also earned points for creating an action plan to implement the recommendations resulting from their audits, and for publishing the results.

Several producers have demonstrated their use of ForestMapper and other CanopyStyle tools to proactively avoid sourcing from Ancient and Endangered Forests. The global market share of production for MMCF companies with sourcing policies rose to nearly 93 percent, “but more importantly, we are seeing producers uphold these in practice—in the past year, supplier engagement has resulted in a decreased demand for controversial sources. We’ve also seen an increase in FSC certified volume used, where use of virgin fiber is unavoidable,” Canopy said.

To provide producers that are less integrated with pulp production with opportunities to earn to dark green shirts, Canopy we introduced a new strategy in 2022. Producers were encouraged to learn more about the Ancient and Endangered Forests in the countries from which they source by filling out a survey to assess their understanding of original forest cover, how much of this remains and what efforts to protect remaining Ancient and Endangered Forests are underway.

Producers were also encouraged to contribute to these efforts, either through in-kind support or a donation to a related conservation organization. This activity is especially beneficial for the majority of producers that are not vertically integrated, and may not have had a strong connection to these sourcing countries and associated conservation efforts to date.

The key to removing pressure on the world’s Ancient and Endangered Forests is to continue to encourage the MMCF sector to be leaders in Next Generation Solutions, Canopy noted. An increasing number of producers demonstrated that there is no reason to put pressure on the world’s forests in order to produce MMCF and that quality products can be made from materials that would otherwise go to waste and add to landfills.

Commitments made by more than 500 CanopyStyle brands continue to provide an incentive to for producers to generate Next Gen MMCF. In addition, the Hot Button Ranking offers significant numbers of buttons related to Next Gen, and this has enabled a lot of activity this year.

“In the coming year, we look forward to supporting red shirt producers in understanding and taking action to eliminate risk of sourcing from Ancient and Endangered Forests and controversial sources,” Canopy said. “Within the cadre of producers achieving or close to achieving green shirts, we can see there is still room for growth, with several producers poised to expand their Next Gen capacity, and also get more involved in taking conservation actions. As we approach the third year of what must be a ‘turnaround decade’ for the planet, we must all reach higher than we have before, and Canopy looks forward to supporting all global MMCF producers in doing so in 2023.”