Thursday, February 29, 2024

Farming Responsible Fashion

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In its legacy as a global sustainable textile company, The LYCRA Company has remained steadfast in its sustainability goals, understanding the responsibility and opportunity it has to create impact across the industry. The company’s sustainability framework, Planet Agenda, was launched in 2008 and is based on the belief that to have a healthy business, we must have a healthy planet. The framework touches every aspect of the company’s business from people to products and processes and is updated with progress shared with the industry.

Published earlier this year, The LYCRA Company’s second annual Planet Agenda Update lays out the company’s journey of innovation and impact that continues to grow through demonstrated steps being taken to address the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and commitment to a more sustainable future. The document included news on innovative products for sustainable fashion, including fibers made from recycled and renewable inputs to reduce carbon emissions as well as durable fibers for long-wear life; a notable reduction in greenhouse gas emissions driven in part by the company’s Maydown, Northern Ireland site converting its purchased electricity to renewable sources through Energy Attribution Certificates (EACs), and three manufacturing sites achieving third-party verified top-quartile performance in the Higg Facility Environmental Module (FEM), with two achieving the same level in the Higg Facility Social & Labor Module (FSLM).

A highlight from the report is the company’s notable achievement made in the last year by attaining one of its key product goals with a sustainable attribute (durability, recycled, renewable, recyclable, safety and/or transparency) for each offering in its product portfolio.

“Sustainability is a key source of innovation as we are focused on providing long-lasting, lower-impact solutions for the leading brands and retailers that we work with,” said Steve Stewart, chief brand and innovation officer. “This entails converting to renewable and recycled inputs, ensuring that the fibers we make from these ingredients are durable to enable long-wear life in a garment, and that ultimately, these products will be recyclable at end of life, part of a circular system that reduces a garment’s impact and keeps materials in use.”

A scalable innovation coming from The LYCRA Company stems from its collaboration with Qore®, a joint venture between Cargill, experts in agricultural fermentation, and HELM, a German chemical company, to create bio-derived LYCRA® fiber made with QIRA®. With QIRA®, the company can harness the power of dent corn to replace petroleum-based ingredients with an annually renewable resource.

Renewable materials — like QIRA® made from dent corn — are often grown using regenerative farming practices. The practice of regenerative agriculture is a holistic and inclusive approach to land management that restores soil and ecosystem health, protecting planetary resources for future generations. Moreover, Stewart explained, it promotes healthier soil and manages fertilizer use while reducing GHG emissions by sequestering more carbon into the soil. This supports biodiversity and crop resilience and improves water quality.

“At The LYCRA Company, we believe regenerative agriculture is good for business and good for the planet,” said Stewart. “We value the hard work of farmers who are applying these practices. That is why we will strive to use their corn to make bio-derived LYCRA® fiber with QIRA®. Because if we can help put regenerative agriculture to work for fashion, we can provide brands and retailers across the apparel industry with more sustainable choices.”

According to recent research from the Rodale Institute, which looked at farming systems and pasture trials around the globe, if farmers can improve soil health through regenerative agricultural practices, more than 100 percent of the global annual CO2 emissions could be sequestered into the soil. The LYCRA Company notes that this is roughly 52 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide every year.

“We have had a lot of ongoing interest from leading global brands and retailers who are looking for more sustainable options to reduce their own product footprints,” said Stewart. “I am very excited about the potential of our collaboration with Qore® to help accelerate the transition to renewable resources as we look toward the decarbonization of our industry.”

Production of QIRA® is expected to begin in late 2024 with commercial product available at scale in 2025, with continued progress happening at the Qore® facility in Eddyville, Iowa.  

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