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Lenzing’s New Sustainability Report Reveals Circular Progress, Climate Goals

When it comes to integrating sustainability throughout its operations and fiber value chain, the Lenzing Group is all in.

The cellulosic fiber manufacturer details its accomplishments and goals in its “2020 Sustainability Report” released Monday, dissecting aspects like its own raw materials and manufacturing to product development and innovations, and the affects of the coronavirus crisis on those efforts.

Covid impact

Peter Bartsch, vice president of corporate sustainability at Lenzing, said among the top accomplishments in 2020 was how company dealt with Covid-19 in terms of the health and well-being of its employees, “implementing a crisis management team” and a clear action plan to protect workers and to keep operations running.

“Lenzing also took efforts to drive sustainability implementation and targets,” Bartsch told Sourcing Journal. “We didn’t stop any of these things despite the disruptions from the crisis because they are the core of what we do.”

CEO Stefan Doboczky said in his executive summary that for Lenzing, like for so many others, 2020 was overshadowed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We focused our efforts on maintaining our sustainable business trajectory and ensuring the health and safety of our employees and partners up and down the value chain,” Doboczky said. “For all the urgency of the fight against Covid-19 and its effects, we must not forget pressing ecological challenges such as the climate, biodiversity and resource conservation. Sustainability is and remains the dominant issue of our time.”

Achievements

He said key projects in Brazil and Thailand–the construction of a dissolving pulp plant and a lyocell plant–are still on schedule despite the pandemic.

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“They will not only support our transformation into a supplier of environmentally compatible specialty fibers, but will also significantly help us to achieve our ambitious climate targets,” Doboczky said.

The new site in Brazil will export more than 50 percent of the electricity it generates to the public grid as renewable energy and will have a positive net carbon footprint once it starts operations. The site in Thailand enables sustainable biogenic energy production with its model infrastructure and will play a big role in advancing the goal of growing based on sustainably produced specialty fibers.

“Our pursuit of science-based targets actively tackles the problems caused by climate change,” Doboczky said. “In 2019, Lenzing made a strategic commitment to slash its greenhouse gas emissions per ton of product by 50 percent compared to 2017 by 2030. By 2050, we intend to be climate neutral. We want to do our part to slow the rate of global warming and achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement and the European Commission’s Green Deal.”

When it comes to integrating sustainability throughout its operations and value chain, Lenzing Fibers is all in.
Fibers are the core of Lenzing’s business. Courtesy

Bartsch said two other key milestones in 2020 were the introduction of the first CarbonNeutral certified fibers under the Tencel brand and the establishment of the Renewable Carbon Initiative, which aims to accelerate the transition to renewable carbon.

The company noted in the report that it underwent its first assessment by CDP, a not-for-profit environmental organization, in 2020 and was the only new entrant on its forest and climate A Lists. In Canopy’s Hot Button ranking, Lenzing achieved a spot in the highest category for the first time.

Bartsch also cited the launch of TextileGenesis, a pioneering supply chain traceability platform for the fashion and textile industry that is enabled by blockchain technology as a top achievement. Fibercoin traceability technology creates real-time digital accounting of sustainable fibers along the entire supply chain from fiber to retail, creating an entirely new level of traceability for brands and retailers. The platform is custom-built for all sustainable fibers such as man-made cellulosic fibers, wool, recycled polyester and organic cotton.

Bartsch echoed the report’s emphasis on the importance of driving the industry toward a full-fledged circular economy by striving to give waste a new life in all aspects of its core business and by co-developing circular solutions with potential partners in and outside the current value chain to close loops wherever possible. This vision is based on Lenzing’s determination to create value by limiting its consumption of virgin resources and reducing the use of fossil carbon in the company and the value chain while improving sustainability performance.

The company unites the cellulosic fiber cycle of its wood-based products with innovative technologies that focus on closing loops in the production and recovering raw materials and chemicals.

Responsible sourcing practices, water stewardship, decarbonization and sustainable innovations are the basis for Lenzing’s efforts in greening the value chain, the report states. The sustainability targets for air emissions, water emissions, pollution and climate protection are the cornerstones of Lenzing’s responsible entrepreneurship and act as innovation drivers.

Putting these tenets into practice, in 202o, Lenzing launched several product line and projects. New carbon-zero Tencel-branded lyocell and modal fibers are CarbonNeutral product certified in accordance with The CarbonNeutral Protocol, a global framework for carbon neutrality. The fibers help lower carbon emissions across the supply chain. Four key levers–energy reduction, use of renewable energy, new technology innovation and supplier engagement–are deployed to achieve Lenzing’s carbon net-zero target.

Lenzing’s Ecovero-branded viscose for textiles and Veocel specialty viscose fiber with Eco Care technology for nonwovens reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and water impact by 50 percent versus generic viscose, according to Higg MSI scores.

Fibers with Modal with Eco Color technology incorporate pigment during fiber production, which helps to avoid conventional energy-intensive dyeing steps. A fabric made from this product reduces CO2 emissions by 60 percent versus conventionally dyed fabrics.

In line with Lenzing’s circular economy vision, the current generation of innovative fibers, manufactured in a commercial large-scale facility, use pre-consumer cotton scraps, post-consumer garments, and wood from sustainably managed forests as raw inputs. The cotton material is recycled into pulp, up to 30 percent of which is blended with dissolving wood pulp to produce high-quality lyocell fibers for textile and nonwovens applications. This technology diverts tons of cotton scraps and post-consumer garments from incineration or ending up in landfills. Lenzing calculates that its fibers with recycled content require 95 percent less water to produce and have a lower land use than conventional cotton.

The Tencel Luxe branded lyocell filament aims to become a key milestone for fabrics in the premium market. The closed-loop lyocell production process ensures minimal environmental impact due to low process water and energy use and raw materials consumption. Tencel Luxe branded filaments produced with the Eco Filament technology avoid conventional yarn spinning that is energy-intensive and predominantly based in regions that heavily rely on fossil-based electricity.

Lyocell fibers from Lenzing are derived from renewable wood and produced in a closed-loop process that transforms wood pulp into cellulosic fibers with high resource efficiency and low ecological impact. Lenzing’s lyocell fibers curb greenhouse gas emissions by around 50 percent relative to generic lyocell, according to Higg MSI scores.

Modal fibers from Lenzing are produced using an integrated production process in which the raw material pulp is manufactured at the same site as the fiber itself. All of the raw material beechwood is converted into cellulose and other biobased biorefinery products.

Lenzing’s biorefinery technology converts wood into pulp, energy, and biobased biorefinery products. One of the biobased biorefinery products is Lenzing Acetic Acid Biobased, which has an 85 percent smaller carbon footprint than conventional fossil-based acetic acid.

When it comes to integrating sustainability throughout its operations and value chain, Lenzing Fibers is all in.
Lenzing has ambitious sustainability goals. Courtesy

Goals

“The most important ongoing sustainability program we have is our climate change targets because it is a long-term target with short-term and mid-term milestones,” Bartsch said. “It covers the entire value chain…and requires partnering with suppliers and authorities, and support from brands and retailers, and includes many aspects.”

Some of the goals are to improve the Lenzing Group’s specific sulfur emissions by 50 percent by 2022, from a 2014 baseline; to offer viscose, modal and lyocell staple fibers with up to 50 percent post-consumer recycled content on a commercial scale by 2025; to innovate a new circular business model by closing the loops for post-consumer materials and partner with 25 key supply chain companies by 2025; and to achieve “aspirational” manmade cellulosic fiber levels for ZDHC wastewater and air emission guidelines at Lenzing viscose facilities by 2024.

Bartsch said Lenzing’s main sustainability goals for 2021 and beyond are “greening the value chain, advancing circularity and driving systemic change.”

“Within these focus areas we have defined several targets,” he added. “Internally, we want to implement a global standard for emissions at our production sites. We will also have more targets set in the area of circularity, where we want to grow with recycling of textile waste with the latest technology and by expanding our product portfolio. We have Refibra technology in Tencel, but we want to expand that to Modal and viscose, as well as expand the share of recycled content. Of course, we want to bring more customers on board with recycled products.”