Material topic: Sustainable materials and life cycle assessment (LCA)
Importance for Lenzing
- Basis to evaluate the ecological performance and substantiating environmental claims of products
- Enormous interest among the general public and stakeholders in sustainable materials and products
- Transparency is essential for fostering trust and building long-term partnerships
- Integrating different perspectives, understanding global trends, and mitigating risks and impacts
- Strengthening market position in sustainable net-benefit products and specialty fibers
- Communicating sustainability benefits of Lenzing’s products
- Involvement in creating future standards for environmental communication (product environmental footprint, product category rules, etc.)
- Gaining expertise in life-cycle thinking to proactively demonstrate sustainable development
- Supporting current and future customers in achieving their sustainability targets
- “Greenhushing” – producing sustainable materials/products but not being able to communicate
- Loss of reputation from not being transparent
- Growing competition and loss of leadership
- Potential regulatory, technology, market, and corporate reputational risks
- sCore TEN strategy – customer intimacy
- Partnering for systemic change as part of the “Naturally positive” sustainability strategy
- Sustainability Policy
- Group Policy for Safety, Health and Environment
- Group Environmental Standard
- Wood and Pulp Policy
- Branding Strategy
- Higg FEM
Due diligence processes and (ongoing) measures
- LCA update involving independent party
- Alignment with Material Sustainability Index (MSI) of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC)
- Commitment to systemic approaches by applying life-cycle thinking
- Use of life cycle assessment to support decision-making in business
- Achieving sustainability vision of making sustainable fibers available to the growing world
Achievements/activities in the reporting year
- Completion of LCA update for standard and specialty fiber portfolio
- Launch of low-carbon-footprint fiber products with corresponding offsets of remaining emissions
- Improvements in ESG rankings, such as MSCI, EcoVadis
- Strategic growth projects fully on track: in Brazil and Thailand
- Lenzing’s fibers listed as “preferred fibers” in Textile Exchange’s Preferred Fiber Report
- Lenzing contributed to Textile Exchange’s Corporate Fibers and Materials Benchmark Program (CFMB) and took part in the Biodiversity Benchmark
- Completion of Textile Exchange’s MMCF Producer Transparency Questionnaire to provide information about the sustainability performance at group and production site level
- Lenzing contributing to leading multi-stakeholder initiatives
- Broad range of third-party certifications
- VP Global Nonwoven Business
- VP Global Textile Business
- VP Global Purchasing
- Corporate Sustainability
- Global QESH
- Research & Development
Sustainability acts as guiding principle for innovation and product development. Every process, product, or application innovation is evaluated in terms of sustainability from the very beginning. At Lenzing, sustainable thinking drives innovation. Key considerations include the life cycle perspective and the net-benefit principle over the entire value chain, which are implemented in the project management tools used by the company.
Lenzing’s innovation portfolio addresses key topics for the future. Sustainable innovations and proactive partnerships form the basis for Lenzing’s strategic efforts to green the value chain. Sustainability targets for air emissions, water emissions, pollution, climate protection, and the circular economy are the cornerstones of Lenzing’s responsible entrepreneurship and act as innovation drivers.
Green Frontrunner: New Technologies for Sustainable Growth
With the newly created “Green Frontrunner” program, the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) supports Austrian companies in order to strengthen their leadership in technology in an international context. The program not only focuses on the expansion of technology and innovation leadership, but also places a strong emphasis on active contributions to climate and environmental protection. As Lenzing is engaged in several activities (as described above) that fit perfectly with the scope of this program, a project proposal was elaborated and submitted. This work was also used to structure the company’s ongoing activities and boost its interdisciplinary approach.
Lenzing is one of the few companies to receive the highly coveted “Green Frontrunner” funding for a project. Entitled “Green Frontrunner – New Technologies for Sustainable Growth”, the project encompasses several technology topics related to the reduction of emissions in pulp and fiber production. The project will make a significant contribution to achieving Lenzing’s goal of being CO2-neutral by 2050, whilst at the same time expanding production. Technologies with various degrees of maturity will be examined – some will be implemented rather quickly, whilst others will offer new possibilities on a long-term horizon.
An example of future technology solutions to be addressed within the project is carbon capture and utilization, i.e. the use of CO2 as a building block for (basic) chemicals. Corresponding possibilities for reducing CO2 will be evaluated within the project.
The sustainable production processes (and the R&D infrastructure) are the foundation for the development of new fibers that offer both sustainability and performance. These fibers serve as raw materials for the textile and nonwoven chains and are often developed together with value chain partners or other stakeholders. As new fibers are mainly tailored to special application fields, this goes hand in hand with the development of the respective applications.
Wood and oranges: A fruitful combination
To promote sustainable innovations, Lenzing also cooperates with other partners in the value chain to speed up the development time. One example is Orange Fiber, an Italian company that has patented a pulp production process for citrus by-products. The aim of this cooperation is to give new life to waste such as orange peels and to generate more transparency in the textile and fashion industry.
After intensive development work a first batch of specialty fibers with a content of a minor amount orange pulp was successfully produced at the pilot plant in Lenzing. The new fiber was presented together with Orange Fiber in July 2021. Based on the obtained fibers a fabric collection was developed, which Orange Fiber will present to the market. Further experiments to increase the orange pulp content are ongoing. The launch of the TENCEL™ Limited Edition fibers underlines Lenzing’s pioneering role in developing highly sustainable production processes and in bringing sustainable innovations to the market – together with innovative partners such as Orange Fiber.
Hydrophobic cellulose fibers for sustainable nonwovens
The development of a hydrophobic lyocell fiber widens the fiber portfolio of Lenzing and allows the replacement of synthetic fibers by a biodegradable cellulosic fiber, thus offering an alternative to conventional synthetic fibers in the context of the SUPD (EU single use plastics directive). In addition, the cellulosic fibers show enhanced softness and therefore are beneficial for future product developments in applications touching the skin like hygiene products or wipes. Furthermore, the hydrophobic behavior of the cellulosic fiber leads to a different behavior towards lotions allowing to adjust lotion amounts and formulations, thus widening the options of nonwovens producers, especially when looking into 100 percent cellulosic options.
The change from conventional wipe blends containing up to 80 percent synthetic fibers (for the carded-spunlace process) to 100 percent cellulosic fibers leads to some changes in the wipe performance. This needs to be addressed to successfully achieve the transition to 100 percent cellulosics wipes with the required (and accustomed) product performance. In this area, development work has focused on achieving sufficient strength and opacity as well as softness and bulk density.
100 percent cellulosic flushable wipes
For years now, flushable wipes have been applied in various fields. The SUPD further heightens the need to offer 100 percent cellulosic wipes with sufficient strength and products that are flushable for safe and convenient disposal. As the usage of flushable wipes has increased over the years, the definition of flushability has become stricter and primarily depends on the pressure of wastewater treatment associations worldwide. Therefore, Lenzing has worked on gaining a fundamental understanding of the relevant fiber properties and final product performance. Based on this work, Lenzing is the first (wood-based) fiber manufacturer to obtain fine-2-flush certification from WRC as well as from IWSFG, demonstrating that lyocell fibers are a suitable ingredient for flushable wipes.
In addition to flushable material, further progress has been made in developing high-strength wetlaid products, which have been presented to customers. As the wetlaid technology offers access to 100 percent cellulosics using a large proportion of wood pulp, the interest in wipes based on this technology has increased over time. Lenzing’s development work focusing on optimizing strength and productivity has been of considerable interest to customers.
LENZING™ Web Technology
Every day, millions of hygiene products and wipes worldwide end up in garbage and sewage. Most consist of up to 80 percent polyester or other fossil, non-biodegradable materials. LENZING™ Web Technology is a patented system developed by Lenzing to offer a biodegradable and compostable alternative: LENZING™ Web Technology is a direct spinning process involving the integration of filaments directly into a nonwoven fabric. The process allows a wider adjustment of the filament diameter and lower basis weight fabrics compared to conventional nonwoven technologies. The combination of all these advantages creates a new technology platform that underpins a broad product range offering an enormous variety of surface textures and greater dimensional stability than conventional nonwoven technologies can achieve.
The project team is fully focused on getting the technology and its products ready for the market. In collaboration with partners from the nonwoven marketplace, fully biodegradable products and applications are being developed and the pilot line at the Lenzing site will be upgraded to produce initial commercial volumes for test markets. The highly innovative nature of this development was also acknowledged with the award of the State Prize for Innovation in 2020. This is the highest award presented by the Republic of Austria to an Austrian company and its employees, who contribute significantly to the sustainable economic development of the country through their innovative problem-solving skills.