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While the textile industry looks toward recovery amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, stakeholders must now consider how to go about adapting to the ‘new normal’. A big consideration in the resumption of business operations, particularly in the fashion industry, is sustainability.
In view of this, Florian Heubrandner, Vice President Global Business Management Textiles at Lenzing AG, joins us once again in our “TENCEL™ Insights” series to discuss how brands and consumers can make the change to more sustainable practices and how this trend is already emerging. He will delve into how these conscious changes can move fashion towards more widely available and affordable sustainable products.
Q: What should retail brands pay attention to when attempting to ‘green up’ their supply chains?
Florian: I believe that the best place to start is by looking at the definition of sustainable raw materials and making the right material choice for your products. Nowadays, there are different international standards such as the Higg Index which compares different sustainable materials, or Canopy’s Hot Button Ranking of wood-based fibers that can help track material sourcing and production. While these standards provide an overview of the sustainable practices being taken, like all other guidelines or regulations, there is no one-size-fits-all standard for sustainability. Brands should also pay attention to other factors such as government regulations, policies and consumer purchasing habits before making a final decision.
Besides the origin and production method of raw materials, the ‘afterlife’ of the fabric is also essential. In simpler terms, look into the level of biodegradability or compostability in your raw materials. At Lenzing, we believe the growing adoption of biodegradable and recyclable products is the way forward and is an essential part of the fiber industry’s future. Such industry shifts can help revolutionize the fashion industry and empower brands that are looking for eco-responsible textile value chains.
When it comes to practices, recycling and recollection are already two common initiatives adopted by brands in recent years. Taking one step ahead, it is important to introduce traceability and transparency to the supply chain. While this may seem difficult at first, with new technologies such as blockchain it is now much easier for companies to re-evaluate their supply chains and remodel their business operations. With increased transparency, brands will have more control over the entire production process along the supply chain to improve aspects such as transparent certification and quality assurance. For consumers, they can also help hold the industry accountable for their actions.
Here at Lenzing, we will continue leading in the advocacy for sustainability and enhanced transparency. To achieve this, we will seek further and closer collaborations with industry partners, brands and consumers. Please do stay tuned for more updates!
Q: What is the true cost of producing sustainable and fair products? What has Lenzing invested in to achieve that?
Florian: The extra cost of sustainable products comes partly from the higher standards held for sourcing. Similar to food, fully natural or organic produce is typically more expensive than conventional produce. Currently, sustainable fabrics and garments are still considered as “niche products” and are therefore produced at lower quantities. Without economies of scale, this often results in higher costs per item.Hopefully, this will change in the near future. At Lenzing, we believe that as more brands commit to sustainability, eco-fashion will become a norm, rather than being labelled as “niche” or “premium”. If there is greater industry demand and supply, the benefits of economies of scale will help reduce overall production costs and make sustainable fashion more affordable. For us, such change in industry preference is encouraging. We look forward to working closely with our partners on cost measures and see how to make more positive societal impact through our innovative and versatile fibers offerings.
Q: What would you recommend consumers and brands do to make their consumption and production more sustainable?
Florian: For brands, it is crucial to invest more in the development of sustainable and recyclable products, as well as attributing more resources to clean sourcing and production. To achieve this, it is important to engage reliable value chain partners and raw material suppliers. Stronger commitment to sustainability will mean investing in product quality and durability. With a longer lifecycle, products will not need to be discarded after a few uses, reducing waste in the long run. Educating consumers about eco-fashion and telling the right stories will also be vital to implementing successful sustainability strategies.For consumers, they should take a deeper look at product hangtags and be more proactive in finding out more about the raw materials used, the place of origin and the production processes involved. This information would make it easier for consumers to shop consciously.