Interview with Sonja Zak

Sonja Zak
Sonja Zak
Head - Product Management

Lenzing: Growing on Tencel
Tencel, the manmade fibre from Lenzing launched in India in 1997, has been a favourite of the fashion conscious because of its sustainable qualities and biodegradable nature. Sonja Zak, Head of Product Management, Lenzing, reveals to Meher Castelino the vision of the company in powering the Tencel brand in India with fashion designers for the upcoming Lakmé Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2018 (August 23).

How does Lenzing handle carbon footprint when it comes to the manufacturing of Tencel?

We have a clear sustainability strategy where it also now defines our strategies that are naturally positive. We define clear goals to further reduce our footprint by improving on our viscose process by steadily working with our key suppliers on improving and ascertaining their sustainability performance and when it comes to the lyocell process itself with Tencel being our key brand.

What has been Lenzing's role in the Canopy initiative?

Lenzing is taking an active role. Canopy is one of our partners that we have defined in our sustainability strategy to improve the whole cellulosic industry. We have defined our supply chain already, with our wood sourcing policy wherein we buy from certified areas and from mills. So, Canopy is a third party proof of our wood sourcing policy.

Where is the material for Tencel sourced from? What steps are being taken to conserve forests?

We are sourcing only from sustainable forests; from either FSC or PEFC-certified controlled sources; the forest areas are in the Western and Northern hemispheres. We are using certified wood for our own pulp mills and from natural forests in Western Europe, which are well managed and certified. We have now started supporting projects for reforestation in Eastern Europe.

Tencel is created from wood pulp harvested from trees. How is Lenzing replenishing the forests?

We are sourcing from natural forests that are managed. So, we stick around for 60 years and then need to cut them down to keep the forest healthy. That's for our mills. In other parts of the world where we are not sourcing like in Eastern Europe, we have launched projects to reforest where trees have been cut off not for our projects but for other things.

How important is sustainability for Lenzing, and what steps are being taken at your end?

Sustainability is very important for Lenzing. It is in our DNA. It is our core focus. We have a final natural positive strategy that is our sustainability strategy wherein we focus on responsibility for forests, water conservation, decarbonisation and sustainable innovation.

Lenzing ranked Number one globally in 2016 for wood sourcing. Is the position still held?

In the latest Canopy report, Birla has more or less the same position. The new report is about to come out. We are sharing the No 1 place with Birla.

What are the future plans for Tencel?

The focus on sustainability will continue. We see, based on our technical knowhow, what we have achieved in the past. Sustainability is one of our core components, as also product innovations.

What has been Tencel and Lenzing's growth story globally?

Our next expansion is coming up in the US. That would be 90,000 tonnes by end of 2019 or beginning of 2020. The third Tencel expansion will be coming up in 2021 in Thailand. It would be another 90,000 tonnes. South Asia will play a crucial role. This will be one of the growth engines for Tencel. 

What is this tie-up with designers meant to be?

We are working with local retailers and brands. Maybe soon we will make an announcement. It is a work in progress. Working with high-fashion designers helps as they are the aspiration points who create aspirations for smaller designers, as also in the Indian retail space. So, that is why we are part of Lakmé Fashion Week. That is how we would like to take the message of sustainability on Tencel to the masses. The traction that we get with local retailers has been very good. We are working with a few Indian brands to take Tencel to the next level.

Lycra marketed itself aggressively and today is in the consumer mind space. Any such plans on Tencel?

We have launched our new branding approach. Our brand Tencel is now on a broader level to increase consumer awareness. There is a clear focus to reach consumers and make them aware of the strength of our brand. The journey started with Lakmé Fashion Week. We see India as the second largest textiles market both for consumption as well as conversion. We play a huge role. Today, if you see the clothing space of Tencel in terms of its superior attributes of softness, moisture absorption and comfort, we see huge opportunities in India, which is used to a lot of cotton. In the next few years, we expect a deficit on cotton. So, we would like to unlock the potential in India with Tencel for various textiles applications.
Published on: 06/08/2018

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of

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