Stella McCartney backs first Life Cycle Assessment for man-made cellulosic fibers

Luxury fashion brand Stella McCartney will be able to better map the environmental impacts of its raw materials, after commissioning the first ever Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for man-made cellulose fiber (MMCF) used in production.

Stella McCartney commissioned a study into the environmental performance of ten raw material sources of MMCF, carried out by third-party certifier SCS Global Services. The study, which will be shared across the textile and apparel industry, examined environmental issues ranging from deforestation to viscose-sourcing practices.

“This is the most comprehensive LCA published evaluating the environmental performance of manmade cellulosic fibers,” SCS’s corporate sustainability services manager Tobias Schultz said.

“We applied the latest science and data, based on a standardised 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.”

Of the 10 raw materials examined, the study found that no single material performed better across all environment impact categories. Belgian flax and viscose produced using recycled materials were deemed better that other MMCFs across most areas, however.

The study also noted that Indian cotton linter pulped in China, Asian production from Canadian boreal forest pulp and Chinese production from rainforests and plantation pulp in Indonesia created the highest environmental impacts across. Other sources examined included eucalyptus plantations and bamboo.

Stella McCartney can use the insights of the study to map its supply chain and source products that are free from fibers derived from endangered forests. The report will be made publicly available for all brands, designers and retailers to make sourcing decisions.

The LCA study was conducted using ISO 14040 and 14044 LCA standards, the draft LEO-S-002 standard and the Roundwood Product Category Rule (PCR). Representatives from PwC, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and environmental non-profit Canopy were involved in the peer review panel.

“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,” Canopy’s executive director Nicole Rycroft said.

“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.”

Environmental loss

Speaking at parent brand Kering’s 2016 talk, Stella McCartney called on clothing manufacturers to take more responsibility for the environmental impact of the products they produce and stop the “unglamorous” sourcing of unsustainable and unethical products.

Stella McCartney published its first environmental profit and loss (EP&L) accounts last year, which places a monetary value on the environmental costs and benefits that the company has generated by its direct operations and across its entire supply chain, covering sourcing, manufacturing and selling practices.

According to the inaugural EP&L report – which is based on Kering’s open-source methodology to measure environmental impact – the brand’s environmental profit and loss impact was a ‘loss’ of €5.5m, representing a 7% growth in impact over the past three years, whilst the brand’s environmental impact has reduced by 35% per kilogram of material used.

One year on, Stella McCartney’s global 2016 EP&L account is estimated to be €6.97m. The increase was put down to an update to the methodology and “better available data”.

Matt Mace

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