I believe manufacturers need to look beyond the material and processing...
Peter Faaborg Andersen, Global Marketing Director, Technical Industries of Novozymes tells about the importance of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) as he converses with Fibre2fashion Correspondent Manushi Gandhi.
Novozymes is a biotech-based company, headquartered in Denmark. It employs approximately 6,000 people in 30 countries. Novozymes' business is divided into three areas: Enzymes for industrial use, microorganisms, and biopharmaceutical ingredients. The company was the first to produce enzymes by fermentation using bacteria in 1952.
Peter Faaborg-Andersen started at Novozymes in 2007. Prior to his current position, he headed the Strategy and Market Insight Department in Enzyme Business. In 2013, Peter became Global Marketing Director for Technical Industries covering biological solutions for Textile and Leather processing as well as Wastewater treatment. Peter hold a M.Sc. in Finance & Strategic Management from Copenhagen Business School supplemented with executive courses from Harvard Business School, IMD and INSEAD.
For a company which is located in various parts of the world, is it actually difficult to enforce sustainability at the ground level in all the branches? While doing so, what are the challenges that you often come across?
With the world seeking to get more from less and desiring inventive solutions that benefit society at large as well as the environment, sustainability makes good business sense. We see sustainability as one of our key business drivers and an integral part of everything we do – and the majority of our employees are attracted to work with us because of the sustainable nature of our business, so enforcing this is fortunately not an issue for us.
In terms of textile production, our solutions can decrease dependence on chemicals, lower the consumption of energy and water, and bring down costs – all while maintaining superior product quality. And this helps textile manufacturers meet the demands of the retailers, who are increasingly focusing on sustainability and setting their own ambitious goals.
In 1941 Novozymes launched its first enzyme, trypsin, extracted from the pancreas of animals and used to soften leather. This is not so eco-friendly. How have the company’s policies changed over the years?
The discovery of trypsin was, at the time, truly ground-breaking. But since then, technology has advanced tremendously and now enzymes are effectively, and sustainably produced using fermentation.
Do you think political instability is one of the major reasons in not so developed countries for lack of implementation of essential steps to save the environment?
With environmental concerns and climate-change issues gaining traction, sustainable solutions are quickly becoming priority in the political agenda of every country including developing countries. However, in order to fast-track the adoption of sustainable solutions, especially in the developing countries, there is a need for the governments to further support through clearer and stricter policies, and incentives for the adoption of the technology, especially by the fragmented players.
Tell us about the importance of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and methodology for it.
It is important to document and support the sustainability claims of products by using tools such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). LCAs can help build and validate environmental claims and measure how biosolutions contribute to more sustainable business practices. They assess the environmental impacts of solutions covering the entire life cycle from cradle to grave – from raw material extraction, through production, use, and transport, to final disposal or recycling.
In the case completed in collaboration with customers, and address various environmental of enzymatic solutions, LCA studies can compare the environmental impact of both conventional and enzyme-assisted solutions delivering the same benefit to the users across various industries, agriculture, and in private homes. They are usually indicators, such as global warming, acidification, nutrient enrichment, and smog formation, and various resource indicators, such as fossil fuels, agricultural land, and minerals. LCA studies should be carried out according to ISO 14040 standards and subject to external expert review or published in peer-reviewed journals. At Novozymes, we validate the sustainable claims of our products through a peer based LCA process.
What is the role of huge corporate companies in bringing better ethical laws and practices and certain countries?
Large, respected companies can certainly have the power to influence – especially if the unite and fight for a common goal. In terms of the textile industry, the first example that springs to mind is the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, an industry-wide group of over 80 leading apparel and footwear brands, retailers, suppliers, nonprofits, and NGOs working to reduce the environmental and social impacts of apparel and footwear products around the world. The goal is to lead the industry toward a shared vision of sustainability.
Some of the desired outcomes of the coalition focus of vital issues such as better water use and quality, reducing energy use and emissions, waste management, and a focus on social and ethical performance impacts of all companies and products.
In a scenario where the buyers are insisting on eco friendly supply, testing and certification standards are being looked upon as a new business area to make profits. What is your opinion about this?
Proving the environment also benefits and the business is carried out ethically, I believe it is a positive step forward. It just means that sustainability is truly good business - for the environment and in terms of profits. And if more businesses see the profitable side to sustainability and begin to adapt more sustainable process to ensure they can make more sustainability claims, society at large will benefit in the long run.
What has been the growth rate of Novozymes for the last 3 years? Do you think the sustainability initiatives have helped the company grow?
Our organic sales growth was 7% in 2013, 4% in 2012, and 10% in 2011. I believe our company is growing because our solutions bring sustainability to customers – whether it is to detergent customers looking to enable low-temperature washing and replace chemicals, or to food customers seeking to providing healthier options or make more from the same raw materials, or to textile customers hoping to save water and energy. Sustainability is rising on the global agenda and our solutions can help our customers to achieve their goals.
If the world’s textile industry implements the whole range of enzymatic solutions in the production of cotton textiles, they can save potentially save up to 28% of water consumption, 80% of chemical consumption and up to 25% of energy consumption.
In some production steps, enzymes enable reduction in the number of rinses and also reduce the effluent load by 22-30% by reducing chemical usage, which is one of the biggest problems that the industry is facing.
On one hand, the cost of production is increasing while on the other hand consumers are demanding good quality, eco-friendly stuff at a lower price. How can this problem be dealt with while not doing anything unethical?
I believe manufacturers need to look beyond the material and processing – better quality and durability can truly make a difference. This is where biopolishing with enzymes can make a difference, where the cost of the treatment is literally just a few cent per t-shirt and the enhanced quality means that the garment lasts twice as long. This means that the customers are happy and repurchase – and 1000 liters of water are saved every time the life of a t-shirt is doubled.
Enzymes are also a cost competitive, especially in the long run, as a small quantity of enzymes can replace substantial amount of costly petro-based chemicals while providing considerable saving in energy and water consumption. Manufacturers can shorten the process cycle by implementing various combined processes, thus further reducing the cost of production.
What are the innovations in enzymes that are expected to have a high demand in near future?
Sustainability is continuously growing in importance to major brands and retailers, and awareness is growing that enzymes can help create more durable, high quality textiles, which is key to improving the sustainability profile of the industry. Enzymatic textile processing can save 25 % of the water used in manufacturing. This means that the world can save 1000 billion liters of water per year.
As mentioned already, biopolishing can really make a difference. Here enzymes create better quality, longer-lasting textiles through eliminating the formation of fuzz and pills (bobbling) after washing. This means that consumers can keep clothes looking new for longer. And each time we double the lifetime of a cotton t-shirt, we save 1000 liters of water.
Do you think there is an adequate awareness about eco-safe products/solutions for textile processing or finishes?
I believe that the textile industry is growing increasingly aware that a more sustainable way of doing business is possible. Whether it is by focusing on new, alternative textiles, using more sustainable technologies during their processing, the industry is trying to embrace ways to change for the better. Governments across the world also play an important role in supporting the adoption of sustainable processes especially amongst the smaller players. Consumer awareness is also growing, but this needs to be further encouraged so that more consumers actively choose and demand environmentally friendly choices when shopping, and develop longer lasting relationships with their clothes. It is only united that the industry and its consumers can move in a more sustainable direction.