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TENCEL™ insights
02 / 02 / 2021
TENCEL™ Insights: Vision 2050 - True Carbon Zero: New hope, new targets
TENCEL™ insights
02 / 02 / 2021
TENCEL™ Insights: Vision 2050 - True Carbon Zero: New hope, new targets

The UN’s 2018 Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action set a target for achieving carbon-zero status by 2050. As one of the largest global contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, the fashion industry has a long road ahead to achieve this ambitious goal. However, a range of fashion and textiles brands have already made significant strides toward reducing their carbon footprint proving that a carbon-zero goal by 2050 is very much achievable.

For the first of our “TENCEL™ Insights” Series in 2021, we spoke to Florian Heubrandner, Vice President Global Textiles Business at Lenzing AG, to discuss what brands should do to achieve a true carbon zero future.


Q: Why is it crucial for carbon emission reductions to be atop the textile industry’s 2021 agenda?

Florian: There is now no single issue more urgent and pervasive for the future of our planet than climate change. For years, the fashion industry has observed the profound impact of global warming on fashion value chains including cotton growth, manufacturing, suppliers, transport and customers.

In the last few years, we witnessed some of the most devastating natural disasters of our time, including major flooding, largescale wildfires, and some of the warmest years on record. As a result, The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is warning our planet will breach the 1.5˚C global warming boundary set in the Paris Climate Agreement between now and 2042, if things do not change quickly. A temperature increase of this nature will cause dangerous, interrelated climate risks for vulnerable regions. In addition, with COVID-19 set in last year, the industry’s need for change came to a head as fashion consumers began voting with their wallets and holistically avoiding products with a negative impact on the environment.

All of this means 2021 is set to be a year of reckoning for our industry. With substantial shifts in consumer purchase preferences, and an undeniable need to reduce our impact on the environment, addressing the issue of carbon emissions should become an immediate, core concern for organizations across the fashion value chain, from textile producers through consumer brands.

Fortunately, many organizations now understand that systemic change can happen quickly. For example, under normal circumstances many organizations viewed the largescale shift to remote working as a multi-year endeavor, but when faced with COVID-19, they were able to implement business continuity plans with little disruption to operations. From a production perspective, many global fashion and cosmetic giants made overnight shifts in their supply chains to begin producing PPE including hospital gowns, masks and hand sanitizer to ensure supply throughout the pandemic.

Necessity breeds ingenuity, and with a clear need for carbon emissions reductions in the coming years, brands can apply this mindset to achieve swift, actionable and environmentally-oriented change.

Q: How should brands be approaching their journey toward achieving carbon-zero status?

Florian: The pathway toward carbon-zero may seem like a daunting endeavor, but most likely the cause of concern is simply that many brands are unaware of their complete environmental footprint. As a first step, companies should work to closely examine their supply chains, increase traceability and quantify carbon emissions throughout a garment’s production cycle.

To ensure carbon reduction schemes are effective, verified guides like The CarbonNeutral Protocol should be followed. The CarbonNeutral Protocol, which Lenzing followed to achieve CarbonNeutral® product certification for our TENCEL™ branded fibers, is the leading global framework to guide companies through their carbon reduction journey. Natural Capital Partners, which manages The Protocol will work with organizations to gather data and asses their carbon footprint.

A roadmap must then be created that outlines plans for carbon emission reductions and carbon offsetting schemes in addition to the implementation of sustainable or renewable fibers which place less strain on the environment throughout its lifecycle. Our recent global consumer perception survey found that raw materials are already becoming significant drivers of sustainable efforts for consumers, indicating a not-so-distant future where consumers will no longer have an appetite for unsustainable fibers and fabrics.

Long-term plans are crucial to ensuring brands are continually progressing along the journey toward carbon zero, however brands should not put off until tomorrow of what can be done today. Brands must begin acting immediately, working with supply chain partners and raw material suppliers that have solutions to reduce carbon emissions on hand to commence a systematic transition away from a reliance on environmentally exhausting materials, production processes and logistics.

As some carbon emissions are unavoidable at present, brands should support a range of verified carbon offsetting initiatives in addition to implementing forms of renewable energy and logistics electrification. Every environmentally focused alteration to operations is crucial to reducing an organization’s overall carbon footprint.

Q: Can you tell us about the steps TENCEL™ is taking to help brands reduce their carbon emissions?

Florian: In late 2019, we unveiled our roadmap toward net-zero carbon emissions which includes an ambitious goal of reducing specific carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 to reach carbon-zero status by 2050. These goals have been set in accordance with the Science Based Targets initiative and support the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

In order to support these targets, we implemented a “True Carbon Zero” campaign and a “reduce-engage-offset” approach which will see us actively reducing our carbon footprint, engaging industry partners and offsetting unavoidable carbon emissions.

Under this campaign, we introduced our first ever next-generation carbon-zero TENCEL™ branded lyocell and modal fibers to help our partners reduce their environmental footprint. Our new carbon-zero fibers feature TENCEL™’s renowned quality, long-lasting softness, enhanced breathability and color retention, in addition to a CarbonNeutral® product certification.

TENCEL™ fibers set the foundation for the fabrics and garments produced from them. As such, we believe in leading by example when it comes to reducing our carbon footprint and doing our part to create a sustainable future for the entire industry.

The TENCEL™ brand works closely with customers to continue identifying ways to further reduce carbon emissions across the value chain. For example, Lenzing is working with spinning mill, Moririn, to supply carbon-zero TENCEL™ fibers for use in a broad range of applications like anti-odor treatment, sewing thread, melange yarn and wool blends etc. Another spinning mill partner, Tearfil, is using our carbon-zero TENCEL™ fibers to move closer toward the “decarbonization of the textile industry” with a strong understanding that the entire textiles industry has a responsibility to reduce its burden on the environment. These close partnerships are crucial to elevating sustainability as we continue to develop industry-leading eco-friendly fibers.

Q: Beyond reduction and offsetting, how else can brands increase their environmental credibility and prepare for a carbon-zero future?

Florian: Consumers are educating themselves on the environmental credibility of brands and are becoming less likely to remain loyal to those without solid green credentials. Our global consumer perception survey found many consumers favor brands that are transparent with their ingredients and the origins of raw materials.

Brands should lean into this trend by publishing their carbon emissions output online and allowing consumers to holistically trace the origin of the garments they purchase. Additionally, brands should be quantifying the carbon footprint of the products they produce which will help consumers better understand how brands are tracking in terms of their environmental responsibility.

Organizations across the fashion industry must also consider joining regional and global initiatives and working more closely with partners to drive environmental responsibility. It is at this critical time that collaboration will be key. Brands must share best practices, drive innovation and promote healthy competition to push the industry toward a carbon-free future.

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