The fashion industry has a significant environmental impact, accounting for between 4 and 10 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions.
Apparel’s current large carbon footprint means that by scaling up sustainability initiatives, the category can have an outsize positive effect. Cellulosic fiber maker Lenzing has been a front-runner in the fight against climate change, as the first wood-based fiber manufacturer to join the UN Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action and adopt science-based targets. Lenzing recently took its commitment to combatting global warming a step further with pledges to halve specific carbon emissions by 2030 and to be fully carbon neutral by 2050.
Ahead of these upcoming goals, Lenzing is taking a more immediate approach to curb carbon by introducing carbon-zero TENCEL™ Lyocell and Modal fibers. While wood-based TENCEL™ products are already eco-friendly, this latest launch takes sustainability to a new level.
“It was a logical step for us to enhance the TENCEL™ brand with this new offering, further strengthening the sustainability offering of our fibers,” said Caroline Ledl, head of product management textiles at Lenzing. “Fashion, footwear and home textile brands using TENCEL™ branded fibers care about the environment, and with the new carbon-zero TENCEL™ offering they can also show their commitment to fight climate change.”
Carbon-zero TENCEL™ is made using renewable energy and a production process that reduces carbon consumption by 65 to 80 percent compared to conventional TENCEL™ fiber creation. The remaining carbon usage that cannot be eliminated is offset. Lenzing is working to further lower the amount of carbon generated during production that needs to be balanced out through offsets.
Currently, the fiber producer’s offsetting supports three programs, which help reduce emissions and tackle other issues such as individuals’ quality of life and waste management. One of the initiatives located in Bangladesh improves cookstoves in households. Another project sets up solar water heating in India. The third effort, based in Thailand, uses landfill gas to generate electricity.
Lenzing carefully calculates its carbon footprint, and its partner in the project Natural Capital Partners helps match those totals to offsetting projects. Natural Capital Partners also provides third-party verification, certifying that the carbon-zero TENCEL™ fibers are CarbonNeutral® and they adhere to the Carbon Neutral Protocol.
Even though carbon-zero TENCEL™ boasts a lower environmental impact, the fibers have the same properties as conventional TENCEL™, including softness, strength, color retention and breathability.
Carbon-zero TENCEL™ was first conceptualized more than a year ago, but the development of the product kicked into gear in early 2020. Even with the pandemic, Lenzing stayed the course. “We decided to push ourselves to bring our concept to the market still during this challenging time, seeing the potential to show innovation and leadership supporting the textile industry to decrease carbon emissions,” said Ledl.
One of the main lessons from the product development was the need for collaboration with different players. Carbon-zero TENCEL™ was a cross-departmental project that involved engaging multiple suppliers, stakeholders and partners to tap into new technologies and carbon reduction techniques.
As a fiber producer, Lenzing embraces its role as an influencer for downstream supply chain partners to adopt more sustainable materials. Research from McKinsey and the Global Fashion Agenda attributes 38 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions from the fashion and footwear sector to raw materials, making this aspect of sourcing a strategic target for brands’ sustainability efforts.
For brands that use carbon-zero TENCEL™, there is an opportunity to position themselves as sustainability frontrunners. While Lenzing doesn’t sell directly to end consumers, the producer has been ramping up the consumer-facing presence for its TENCEL™ brand. In addition to the existing marketing collateral available to brands to promote products that feature TENCEL™, the company has created “true carbon zero” swing tags and point-of-sale materials. Additionally, Lenzing offers co-branding opportunities on platforms such as social media to support its customers.
“We strongly hope that our initiative inspires the fashion business to follow our lead,” said Ledl. “Partnering for change is possible, and we all need to work together to take action now to actively reduce carbon emissions.”
Click here to learn more about carbon-zero TENCEL™ fibers.
TENCEL™ is a trademark of Lenzing AG.