Birla Cellulose: Responsibly Produced Viscose, Modal and Lyocell Fibers for the Sustainable Fashion

Birla Cellulose is deriving viscose, modal, and lyocell fibers from wood sourced from sustainably managed forests and produced by closed loop processes. In doing so, we achieve six key impacts:

  • a drastic reduction in water use, as water required for viscose production is up to 1% of the equivalent cotton water consumption.
  • a drastic reduction of chemical consumption compared to pesticide and fertilizer use in comparison to the growth of cotton.
  • the ability to recycle between 90% to 99.7% of solvents used in the manufacturing.
  • carbon neutral operations, as the forests we directly manage sequestered 3.44 Mt CO2e in 2019, as opposed to only 3.22 Mt CO2e emitted through its entire global operations.
  • full biodegradability of viscose, modal, and lyocell in four to six weeks in land, water, and marine conditions.
  • the use of recycled cellulosic waste in the production in combination with wood-based pulp. This partial reuse reduces fresh raw material needs.

Through this comprehensive strategy, Birla Cellulose was ranked number one in Canopy’s Hot Button Report 2019 and 2020, that ranks viscose producers based on sustainable wood sourcing and forestry practices. This give a strong competitive advantage when satisfying the growing market for sustainability-aware fashion.

Business case

The returns from the investment in sustainability can be measured in multiple ways. First, the market growth for sustainable products has been stronger than for other products, showing that sustainability conscious consumers are ready to pay a premium for more sustainable products. Also, we benefit from improved resilience with closed loop technologies allowing to recover and reuse resources such as chemicals, water and energy. Through sustainable forest management practices, we increase the carbon stored in our forests. Finally, we upcycle our waste into usable products.

Overall all this builds a more resilient and profitable business that can weather the challenges of climate change, stricter regulation and changing consumer behavior.

Next Steps

Birla Cellulose has set ambitious goals to achieve in next 2 to 8 years. After achieving carbon neutrality in scope 1 and scope 2 emissions in 2019, our most ambitious goals are:

  • Achieve the most stringent European norms, (EU BAT) at all our MMCF sites by 2022.
  • Reduce our water intensity by 50% from the baseline of 2015 by 2025
  • 50% reduction in water intensity by 2025
  • Zero harm for employees
  • Reduction of waste generation up to 25%
  • Reduce our sulfur emission by 70%
  • Reduce our waste water pollutant load by > 60% by 2022.
  • Empower 45,000 Women empowerment by making them financially independent by 2030
  • Scaling up of circular product by use of cotton waste as feedstock

More information

Birla Cellulose Sustainability Report -2019: https://www.birlacellulose.com/reports-policies.php

Mr. Mukul Agrawal, Head Sustainability & Strategic Projects (Pulp & Fibre Business)

Email ID: mukul.agrawal@adityabirla.com

Company in brief

Birla Cellulose, part of the USD 48.3 billion Aditya Birla Group, is a leading sustainability focused Man-Made Cellulosic Fibers (MMCF) producer and operates 12 sites that apply environmentally efficient closed loop technologies to recycle raw materials and conserve natural resources. Its five global advanced research centers are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and pilot plants. Its innovative products like Livaeco™, Liva Reviva, Excel lyocell, Liva Antibac and Birla spun shades are designed with superior sustainable credentials. 100% of the wood used in Birla Cellulose process comes from controlled wood sources.

Background

The fashion industry is largely based on a linear business model, dominated by fossil fuel-based materials. The MMCF’s industry most material sustainability issues are sustainable forestry and the use of responsible production guidelines such as Canopy standards for sustainable forestry.

Birla Cellulose vision is to be the global leader of sustainable business practices in the industry. It has committed a capital of $170 million in 2018, to apply the best available technologies at all its MMCF and meet the most stringent European norms. We are leading efforts across the industry to establish nature based circular business model.

Initiative

Birla Cellulose has set very aggressive and ambitious targets such as cutting its sulfur emissions by 70% or reducing its water consumption by 50%. It also aims to scale circular products, empower 45,000 women and reduce GHG emissions.

To achieve these targets, sustainability initiatives need to be deployed at the global scale across all geographies. This require the full determination of our employees, as well as partnerships across the value chain and with external organizations. Our Nagda site would be first in the world to achieve Zero Liquid Discharge.

Sustainability criteria

Sustainability progress is measured from a baseline performance set in 2015. Since then we have achieved for example 100% of our wood from controlled sources, 35% reduction in water intensity per ton of fiber produced, 10% improvement in energy efficiency. At the product level, our innovative Liva Reviva, made of 20% recycled cotton waste is entering the market, while Birla spunshades, a pre dyed fiber, completely eliminates the use of hazardous chemicals and water in the dyeing process. A T shirt made with innovative product Livaeco saves more than 900 liters water, enough for one day need of drinking water for 250 people, compared to a cotton T shirt. Our Nagda site generates a surplus of water that supplies 50 villages nearby. Finally our blockchain based transparency and tracking tool, gives the complete transparency of the value chain to the consumer by scan of the QR code.

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