Lenzing unleashes new eco-friendly fibre

There's a new eco-friendly fibre on the anvil—Austrian speciality fibre-maker Lenzing will soon be launching EcoVero, a viscose with the lowest environmental impact in the industry. 


Lenzing

This, Lenzing believes, will set a new industry-wide benchmark in the sustainability of viscose fibres. According to Robert van de Kerkhof, chief commercial officer and a board member at Lenzing, the new viscose fibre would be based on three pillars: use of sustainable wood resources, an ecological production process and a 100 per cent supply chain transparency.

The announcement about Lenzing's new innovation was made at the just-concluded Planet Textiles 2017 in Bengaluru. The EcoVero fibre would be available sometime in September.

Speaking of the new viscose innovation, Amit Gautam, vice-president for global business management textiles, said, "People tend to think of viscose as one market in itself. Our starting hypothesis is this: viscose constitutes multiple markets at the same time. If you look at the sustainability value pyramid, at the very top you have the greenest and cleanest viscose that one can make. At the very bottom you have parts of China where plants are being shut down even as we speak. Even the Chinese government are telling them that you are too polluting. It is to that extent that there is a challenge that includes waste water that is led into the rivers, sulphur emissions and how the wood is being sourced.

"With EcoVero we are trying to claim a space in the top of the pyramid with a fibre that we are saying is the cleanest that you will get on the planet. Our wood is certified by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). But most of the industry stops there. Something that is as important is the conversion of wood into fibre. The production process is energy-intensive, chemicals intensive, water-intensive."

Gautam continued, "Moreover, there is an Eco EU Label certification, which is a difficult standard to achieve. EcoVero has 50 per cent lower emissions and water impact than any viscose that you can find in the market. The Eco EU Label is only awarded to products which have a significantly lower net environmental impact than comparable products in the market."
The third factor is transparency and traceability, he said, "because if you don't do that, the first two steps are meaningless. We have now made a change in the manufacturing process. For the first time in the cellulosic industry, at the garment stage we can identify whether the certification has been done. We can test and tell a brand that it is EcoVero viscose and not any Chinese viscose. That's an assurance for brands/retailers." 

Lenzing is also offering a range of marketing services around EcoVero. On Indian prospects, S Jayaraman, regional commercial director for Asia-Pacific and South Asia, said, "With sustainability issues catching up and consumers into responsible shopping behaviour, there is a good scope for EcoVero to pick up. Later this year, we will bring this product from Austria to the Indian market. In the coming years, we will roll out in a bigger way."

Providing a backdrop to this new innovation, the company announced, "The environmental awareness of consumers has been growing steadily over the last decade, more recently in the fashion and textile industry. Textile consumption is expected to double by 2025, and the industry is anxiously looking for more sustainable solutions with minimal eco-footprint. Achieving low environmental impact requires developing eco-friendly raw materials and a sustainable manufacturing process." The new fibre is the latest in a range of fibre innovations from Lenzing. The company already offers the Tencel, Modal and Refibra fibres.

Meanwhile, late on Wednesday, environmental not-for-profit Canopy and the Rainforest Alliance released the first independent verification audit results of Lenzing’s wood sourcing. The audit uses a risk-based approach and requires verifiable evidence that wood and pulp used by Lenzing for the production of fabric and fibres, such as Lenzing Viscose, Lenzing Modal, Tencel and Refibra, fulfill a robust verification framework and audit process that was developed by Canopy in partnership with the auditors Rainforest Alliance. Since its launch in 2013, the CanopyStyle initiative is recognised as the fastest moving environmental issue within the apparel industry.

The key findings of Lenzing’s audit included: the current Lenzing fibres supply chains are confirmed as low risk for sourcing from ancient and endangered forests or other controversial sources, excluding small volumes of trial material; a comprehensive understanding of their supply chain structure and the geography of all dissolving wood pulp manufacturers; a strong commitment to the company policy to avoid sourcing from ancient and endangered forests.

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