The need to implement sustainable processes within the fashion supply chain has never been greater. With growing awareness from the fashion industry about the environmental and social impact of the textile sector, the focus on adopting innovative solutions continues to gain momentum. Sustainability is now a key business imperative in supply chain management for many fashion brands and retailers, despite the economic challenges brought on by the pandemic. With more fashion companies encouraged to create more sustainable supply chains, leading fiber manufacturer Lenzing aims to support their transition.
Placing sustainability at the core of its company values, the global company seeks to support industry stakeholders and fashion players pursue more circular and transparent business operations through its products and partnerships. To learn more about how Lenzing strives to bring around positive change within the fashion industry and help stakeholders adopt sustainable practices within their own supply chains, we spoke with Peter Bartsch, Vice President of Corporate Sustainability at Lenzing.
Q: Why is working and promoting transparency so important to Lenzing?
A: "When you work in such a large company like Lenzing, not everyone is aware of all the moving pieces. Working transparently is a great way to identify gaps and see where we have room for improvement. This is not always clearly visible, so increasing transparency helps us to pinpoint where we can enact change. Transparency in the workplace also promotes diverse thinking across different areas to push our company forward and helps us better assess potential risks and mitigate them, which is very important.
At the same time, we have to deal with stakeholder and customer needs. Brands and retailers have clear expectations regarding raw materials and their performance, while NGOs hold us to their standards to continue our partnerships. From these expectations, many stakeholder initiatives have been formed. External investors and legislations like the EU Green Deal also require complete transparency from companies, especially when it comes to the environment. They want to know our environmental and social impact, as investors must assess their financing in terms of ESG indicators. We want to show stakeholders that when they invest in Lenzing, there is no risk involved and they are working towards the greater good."
Q: How is Lenzing partnering with other industry players to bring around sustainable systemic change?
A: "We first identify our key goals and areas where we need to take immediate action, such as enabling circular economy and tackling climate change. These are issues with lots of uncertainty about the best course of action and are too big to handle alone. It is important to work with other stakeholders and organisations to overcome these hurdles, as together we have more power to develop solutions.
We regularly engage with leading multi-stakeholder initiatives and industry partners like the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, as well as academics, brands, retailers, and NGOs to develop tools and methodologies which are able to assess different products and processes. We cannot bring around large scale change alone, so we work with partners throughout our entire supply chain. Together, we aim to develop the best tools possible to improve our operations and implement them accordingly. We also collaborate with brands to drive sustainable innovation in product development, like using our TENCEL™ branded fibers with REFIBRA™ technology to produce garments. Our partnerships are centered around open communication and mutual support.
We take on a cross-industry view as many of these issues overlap with other sectors, which provides opportunities to exchange knowledge and resources. These discussions should not be viewed on a competitive level, as we are overcoming shared challenges together."
Q: How does Lenzing support industry stakeholders to pursue more transparent and circular business models?
A: "We drive this through our own engagement with industry stakeholders and partners, supporting them through projects in accordance with our circular business approach. We work closely with partners to help develop the tools needed, from track and trace to new resources and logistical processes, so that they can monitor their products at every stage of the value chain. Last year, in cooperation with TextileGenesis™, we introduced a digital platform for textile supply chain traceability enabled by blockchain technology. The platform provides customers, partners, and consumers with an overview of the entire textile value chain. It’s clear supply chain traceability has now become a top priority for apparel and home. We hope they look to us as a role model for positive change and join us in motivating other players in the textile industry to embrace more sustainable ways of working.
In addition, we strive to promote the conservation and restoration of resources. This is something we do through our TENCEL™ and VEOCEL™ branded offerings. We want to provide our partners with peace of mind that they will receive the branded fibers they have consciously chosen and ordered. For example, our fiber identification technology ensures traceability of our TENCEL™ branded fiber. For brands which use TENCEL™ fiber in their products, this can provide them with the credibility to communicate sustainability efforts, combat greenwashing and upgrade their own brand’s sustainability credentials. Fiber identification will become a part of the fabric certification process within our Lenzing E-Branding Service enabling producers, retailers, and brand owners, to easily track their fibers throughout the production process. This allows customers to differentiate between brands using ethically sourced materials and make an informed decision."
Photo credit: Lenzing