New Study Reveals Lighter Environmental Footprint for Fibers Sourced from Flax and Recycled Clothing
Peer-Reviewed LCA Commissioned by Global Fashion Pioneer Stella McCartney Compares Ten Different Fiber Inputs for Manmade Cellulose Fiber
Leading third-party certifier SCS Global Services (SCS) today announced the release of a groundbreaking Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) comparing the environmental performance of ten different raw material sources of manmade cellulose fiber (MMCF). The study examined a broad range of environmental issues, from the time raw materials are obtained from global forests, agricultural operations or other sources, through the production of viscose (also known as rayon) and other MMCFs. Commissioned by luxury designer, Stella McCartney, the report is being made publicly available as a resource for all brands, designers and retailers interested in making informed fiber sourcing choices.
This is the first study using LCA, an internationally recognized scientific methodology, to assess global sourcing scenarios for all ten raw materials, including an evaluation of specific forests of origin and terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems. The study included MMCF sourced from different global forests, eucalyptus plantations, bamboo, cotton-linters, flax fiber and recycled clothing.
“This is the most comprehensive LCA published evaluating the environmental performance of manmade cellulosic fibers,” said Tobias Schultz, who headed up the project team for SCS as its Manager of Corporate Sustainability Services. “We applied the latest science and data, based on a standardized LCA Methodology, to complete the evaluation, which was then peer-reviewed by a multi-stakeholder panel of experts. This level of scrutiny ensures that the report’s findings are robust and reliable.”
The study concluded that the choice of raw material input is key to determining the environmental profile of MMCF. While none of the ten raw materials or global sourcing scenarios were environmentally preferable across all impact categories, MMCF made from Belgian flax emerged as favorable across a majority of the impact categories, followed by viscose produced from recycled clothing. The analysis found that Asian production from Canadian boreal forest pulp, Chinese production from Indonesian rainforest pulp, Chinese production from Indonesian plantation pulp, and Indian cotton linter pulped in China had the heaviest environmental footprints among the scenarios examined.
The Stella McCartney brand is deeply committed to sustainability and this study ensures the brand that its own MMCF products are free from fibers derived from ancient and endangered forests. Furthermore the information provided in this study will be a resource for the entire industry as it provides insights into wide range of impacts that a brand’s or supplier’s sourcing of manmade cellulose fibers can have on the planet’s forests. The study incorporates the most up-to-date, scientific information, emphasizes the criticality of businesses embracing closed-loop fiber solutions.
Representatives from Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC), the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University, and the environmental not-for-profit organization, Canopy, participated on the peer review panel. The LCA was conducted in conformance with internationally recognized ISO 14040 and 14044 LCA standards, the draft LEO-S-002 standard, and the Roundwood Product Category Rule (PCR).
“This rigorous study provides important new insights into how the choice of fiber source determines the impacts of man-made cellulose fiber on the world’s species, forest ecosystems and freshwater, as well as our global climate and human health.” said Nicole Rycroft, Canopy’s Executive Director. “For Canopy, these findings reinforce the need to prioritize and advance commercial-scale production of fabrics made from closed-loop fiber solutions such as agriculture residues and recycled fabrics.”
According to Schultz of SCS, the cutting-edge study addressed a comprehensive set of impact categories relevant to MMCF production, factoring in critical yet previously omitted impact categories such as ocean acidification, climate hot spot impacts, forest disturbance, and key species losses. Land use conversion and species impacts were studied using innovative methodologies and transparent, publicly available data. The global sourcing scenarios selected are representative of a variety of real-world options. Three of the sourcing scenarios are in areas that fall under Canopy’s definition of ancient and endangered forests and are therefore important to note for the 105 global fashion and apparel brands signed onto the CanopyStyle initiative.
On November 30th, SCS Global Services will host a webinar with Schultz presenting key findings from the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study. This webinar will discuss the details of the study, providing an overview of the key findings, methods, and data sources used, enabling personnel at brands, designers, and retailers to make more informed fiber sourcing choices. Click here to register.
About SCS Global Services (www.scsglobalservices.com)
SCS Global Services (SCS) has been providing global leadership in third-party environmental and sustainability certification, auditing, testing, and standards development for more than 30 years. Its programs span a cross-section of industries, recognizing achievements in apparel, green building, food and agriculture, natural resource extraction, and much more. SCS is a California benefit corporation, reflecting its commitment to socially and environmentally responsible business practices, and is a 2017 recipient of the Business Intelligence Group (BIG) Sustainability Leadership Award.
SCS Media Contact: Linda Brown, Senior Vice President, +1-510-504-0226,
About Canopy (www.canopyplanet.org)
Canopy is a not-for-profit environmental organization dedicated to protecting the world’s forests, species and climate. Canopy collaborates with more than 700 companies to develop innovative solutions, make their supply chains more sustainable and help protect our world’s remaining ancient and endangered forests. Canopy’s partners include H&M, Sprint, Penguin/Random House, Stella McCartney, Zara, TC Transcontinental, The Guardian and Scholastic. Canopy’s work relies on the support of individual donors who share our passion for the planet
Canopy Media Contact: Laura Repas, +1.416.729.7484,
About Stella McCartney (www.stellamccartney.com)
Stella McCartney is a luxury lifestyle brand that was launched under the designer’s name in 50/50 partnership with Kering in 2001. Stella’s approach to design emphases on sharp tailoring, a natural confidence and an effortlessly sexy style. A lifelong vegetarian, Stella McCartney does not use any leather or fur in her designs. The brand is committed to ethical values, and believes the company is responsible for the resources it uses and the impact it has on the environment. It is therefore constantly exploring innovative ways to become more sustainable, from design to store practices and product manufacturing. Stella McCartney offers women’s ready-to-wear, menswear, accessories, lingerie, swimwear, kids, fragrance and adidas by Stella McCartney collections through 51 free-standing stores including London, New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris, Milan and Shanghai. Her collections are distributed in 77 countries through 863 doors including specialty shops, and department stores, as well as shipping to 100 countries online.
Stella McCartney Contact: Max Orloff, +1 212.627.1583,
SCS Media ContactLinda Brown | Senior Vice President
SCS Global Services To find out more, contact Linda Brown, or call 510.452.8010.