From the MD's Desk
Mr. Dilip Gaur
Business Director – Pulp & Fibre Business, Aditya Birla Group and Managing Director, Grasim Industries Ltd.
We are committed to creating positive value for all our stakeholders, including our customers, surrounding communities, shareholders, employees, business partners and the planet. With a vision to be a leader in sustainable business practices, we have always prioritised our Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) performance, which we believe is the foundation for a sustainable business. Our businesses not only focus on offering innovative products that cater to the needs of our customers, but also ensure the sustainability and protection of the environment we operate in. Sustainability is the core of our business strategy.
Birla Cellulose's sustainability efforts are directed towards renewing, conserving and preserving natural resources for the future to come, while creating value for all our stakeholders. The vision of Birla Cellulose is to be the leader of Sustainable Business Practices in the Man Made Cellulosic Fibre (MMCF) industry.
The pulp and fibre business is one of the first businesses of the Aditya Birla Group. This business is better known globally as Birla Cellulose, the umbrella brand for the products supplied to the customers worldwide. For more than seven decades, our aspiration has been to enrich the lives of people by providing outstanding solutions to fulfil the needs of consumers of nature based cellulosic fibres.
Over the last two years, Birla Cellulose has taken a giant leap by aligning sustainability strategies to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as identified by the United Nations. The company has committed an investment of more than $170 million in upgrading to cutting-edge technology for the closed-loop production processes.
Birla Cellulose also intends to go beyond the statute and create new benchmarks for water intensity in the global viscose industry. Beyond investments, our commitment to sustainability is best demonstrated by the launch of our product Livaeco, which boasts of unmatched sustainability credentials. Livaeco comes from FSC® (Forest Stewardship Council) certified sustainable forests and promises minimal usage of water vis-à-vis natural fibres. Every Livaeco garment also has a unique molecular tracer, which helps the end buyer trace the origin and full journey of the garment being purchased. This is a path-breaking initiative to make fashion more sustainable in India.
The Aditya Birla Group offers an entire range of cellulosic fibres derived from natural and sustainable sources, under the umbrella brand Birla Cellulose. Birla Cellulose has been giving the world of textiles what it needs the most—the best in regenerated cellulosic fibres, as well as a promise of a sustainable future. A world leader in viscose staple fibre (VSF), Birla Cellulose is a trusted raw material partner for the global textile and non-woven value chain, representing a perfect mélange of nature and science.
Viscose—The greater fibre: Fibres are the basic raw material to produce apparel. Typically, fibres are grouped into two broad categories. Natural fibres include wool, silk, cashmere, cotton and jute. Man-made fibres include polyester, nylons and acrylics. However, there is also a third category of natural fibres that are made of cellulose derived from wood, viz. viscose, modal, lyocell, etc. Regenerated cellulose fibres, commonly called viscose or rayon, are not new to the world of textile fibres but they are probably the most misunderstood of all fibres. Unlike cotton, viscose is not grown directly, but it is a natural fibre that is based on wood, sourced from sustainably managed forests. The viscose fibre is made by chemically dissolving the wood-based cellulose and then rebuilding it in the form of fibre that can be used for making textiles. Viscose can be responsibly produced by using closed loop manufacturing process, which reduces the impact on natural resources. In the closed-loop manufacturing process, production of viscose fibres consumes fewer natural resources like chemicals, water and energy, and materials are recovered and recycled back into the process. At the end of its life cycle, viscose is biodegradable in water, soil and marine environment; and compostable in home and industrial conditions.
Viscose—Versatility in applications: Viscose is a technologically versatile fibre. It can run on all types of technologies—conventional as well as modern spinning techniques like ring spinning, open end and air jet. Viscose based yarns have many applications ranging from apparel, home textiles like carpets, upholstery, etc. Viscose is a preferred choice for various nonwoven applications like wipes due to its high absorbency and eco-friendly properties. Wipes made from viscose have soft feel and are comfortable in next-to-skin applications and are fully biodegradable in soil, water and marine environment. Flushable wipes are another ecofriendly application for hygiene applications.
Sustainable fashion: Conventional wisdom has been that products that are made of more sustainable materials are much more expensive or lack the performance expected in today's fashion. Viscose fibres offer many sustainability advantages over natural and synthetic fibres and have high quality performance characteristics necessary in higher fashion while still being at an affordable price.
Global footprint: Birla Cellulose touches lives of people across the world, from plantation to fashion and lifestyle. An idea seeded in 1947 has grown organically and made us a global leader in VSF. Headquartered in Mumbai, the company's plantations, factories and marketing offices reach out to several countries, making a positive impact on the global textile and non-woven businesses.
Innovation Centres at Birla Cellulose
- Clonal Production Centre, Harihar, India
- Dominnova, Domsjö, Sweden
- Pulp and fibre innovation centre, Taloja, India
- Birla Research Institute, Nagda, India
- Fibre Research Centre, Kharach, India
- Textile Research and Development Centre (TRADC), Kharach, India
- New Generation Fibre Research Centre, Nagda, India
Customers and Value Chain:Birla Cellulose is a customercentric brand. "Keeping the customer at the heart of every decision that we take, is ingrained in our ethos. Our sustainability decisions are also aligned with the goals of our customers and amplify their efforts in making the planet and society better.
Our value chain partners make products and provide services based on the environmental, societal and economic expectations of the customers.
Sustainability at the Aditya Birla Group means 'Think about Tomorrow, Today'. Birla Cellulose aspires to be the leader in the sustainable business practices in viscose industry. The Sustainability Strategy was formed based on the prioritized material issues shared by internal and external stakeholders, the UN SDG goals for 2030, the risks assessment and the Aditya Birla Group Sustainability policy.
The goals adopted by the company are:
- Reduce sulphur release to air by 70% at all fibre sites by 2022;
- Reduce water intensity by 50% in VSF manufacturing by 2025 over baseline of FY'15;
- Reduce the Loss Time Injury Frequency Rate (LTIFR) below 90% over baseline of FY'15;
- Assess and improve the sustainability performance of key suppliers by 2025;
- Increase the use alternative feedstock such as of pre- and post-consumer waste cellulose;
- Development of alternative applications to reduce the solid waste by 25% by 2030 over FY'15;
- Empower 50,000 women by making them financially independent on chosen vocations by 2030.
Responsible Sourcing: All input materials and services utilized in carrying out operation in Birla Cellulose are covered under responsible sourcing. The sourcing strategy is designed considering the management of risks pertaining to safety and environment, legal compliances, ethics, human rights and fair wages, among other aspects related to functionality of materials and services. Its stringent wood sourcing policy ensures sustainable forestry and protection of ancient and endangered forests.
Responsible Manufacturing: Excellence is not achieved overnight, but by facing the challenges that come along and by doing the right thing, at the right time and in the right manner. Birla Cellulose has been consistently taking steps to attain global benchmarks in manufacturing man-made cellulosic fibres (MMCF), by consistently improving sourcing and manufacturing practices.
Manufacturing is the mainstay of sustainability. Innovations in the closed loop technologies and 4R (reduce, reuse, recycle and regenerate) are applied consistently to reduce impact on environment and optimize the use of natural resources. Safety and Health is accorded highest priority in operations.
Management Approach: The company has a holistic approach towards sustainable manufacturing of viscose fibre.
"We apply the best combination of best in class technology, global benchmark management practices and a well-skilled and trained operations team to deliver the highest quality fibre in a safe and environment friendly manner. All the pulp and viscose manufacturing sites are certified for Environment Management System i.e. ISO 14001:2015. By continuously innovating the processes and technology, the pulp and fibre units have been able to significantly reduce the resource consumption, including raw materials, water, energy and waste." Special technologies have been applied at several plants to reduce the consumption of materials to the extent of 50 per cent or more. Birla Cellulose has gone beyond the regulatory norms and is applying the most stringent EU BAT norms across the viscose manufacturing sites.
Reducing Environmental Footprint: Achieving more with fewer resources, is a key priority area for the company's business. "We have a very focused approach and have taken several steps in this direction. As the business expands, resource requirement increases, so it becomes inevitable to conserve the naturally occurring resources. Our emphasis is on 'abatement at source' to reduce the consumption of important resources. Closed-loop production process of fibre ensures that the waste is minimised in the process by maximising the efficiency of the process and reducing/reusing the generated waste."
Carbon Neutrality: Birla Cellulose has conducted comprehensive evaluation of its GHG emissions. The scope 1 and scope 2 GHG emissions of all its 11 sites globally are completely neutralized by the carbon sequestered in its directly managed forests. Birla Cellulose is first viscose producer to do the comprehensive scope 3 evaluation. The exercise was done by E&Y, using the GHG Protocol and IPCC guidelines for the greenhouse gas inventories.
New Benchmark for Specific Water Consumption using 3R: The mantra of 3R principle was applied across (reduce, reuse and recycle). Alternative innovative processes for water savings were adapted, including improving the efficiency to reduce consumption, reuse of water multiple times, and technologies which could clean up and recycle wastewater. Birla Cellulose have established new global benchmarks in specific water consumption.
Treated Wastewater Discharge: Responsible and safe management of treated wastewater from the point of generation until the final disposal is a key priority at the sites. "All our sites have an operational effluent treatment plant (ETP) and is adapting the EU BAT norms for waste water. Birla Cellulose is committed to minimise the potential adverse impact on the environment by implementing best practices in wastewater management."
Adapting Standards and Systems: The company is striving to adopt standards and systems accepted and recognised globally.
"Our collaboration with experts, external agencies, and reference systems like the EU BAT are some of the steps to make our processes more environment friendly."
- Health and Safety : Health and Safety of the employees and the surrounding community is of highest priority to Birla Cellulose. All sites safety program are based on OSHAS 18001.
- EU BAT: The European Union BAT (Best Available Technology) standard gives references of technologies that can be applied to achieve stringent norms of emission to air and waste water and is (called BREFs). These are considered to be the most stringent norms for viscose industry.
- Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC): As a step towards incorporating the best chemical management practices, the company made its way to ZDHC in 2018 to promote sustainable chemistry and drive innovations in the textiles industry.
- Demonstrating Positive Legal Compliance: The compliance and assurance programme is designed to ensure that "we can prove, we meet the requirements of local laws."
- HIGG Index: Birla Cellulose started its self-assessment journey with Higg Index (2.0) FEM and adopted (3.0) FEM that links manufacturers, brands and retailers together on measuring the impacts on an industrial scale. Birla Cellulose leads the viscose industry with third party verified Higg 3.0 FEM scores of > 90% at all sites.
- Quality Management: Quality of products and processes is a collective responsibility owned by employees at Birla Cellulose. "We have a well implemented Quality Management system with ISO 9001:2015 that ensures that products of high quality are produced across most of our manufacturing facilities."
Product Safety: The products
are used as ingredients for other
products which are used on daily
basis for various applications:
apparel and home décor, personal
care, hygiene and medical. "Safety
of our products, is therefore, a
top priority. We make sure they
are safe for use during their use
phase and do not degrade the
environment in their post-use
phase. Our products are certified with Oeko-Tex Standard 100 both for textile and nonwoven applications and allay any concern regarding the safe use of products which are worn next to the skin.
Our fibres have qualified for 'Skin Compatibility & Skin Irritation' tests by the German Institute FKT - Fördergemeinschaft Körperverträgliche Textiliene. The test proves that Birla Viscose& Birla Spun-dyed are suitable for 'next-to-skin' applications."
While "we continue making products and services that delight customers, Birla Cellulose has been adopting circularity in design to produce more with less. We are gradually moving towards circular economy, a regenerative system where resource input and waste, emission, and energy leakage are minimized by slowing, closing, and narrowing energy and material loops; this can be achieved through longlasting design, maintenance, repair, reuse, remanufacturing, refurbishing, recycling and upcycling." The circularity in design in totality in the value chain and within its individual loops is applied at each stage of the value chain.
Recyclability - Waste Recycling
Birla Cellulose developed products with 20% recycling content using pre-consumer cotton waste as feedstock to the viscose fibre.
"We are closely working with global brands to have better sustainability credentials and for our commitment towards circular economy."
The company is right at the beginning of the long woodpulp- fibre-fabric-fashion chain and supply the basic raw material to the textiles industry, which is the fibre. Hence, "we have a dual responsibility of not only making the basic raw material more sustainable but also to enable and empower the upstream supply chain and the downstream value chain to do the same. Thus, for the product to be sustainable at the hand of the end consumer, the entire value chain from forest to fashion needs to be sustainable."
Product Innovations: "We continue to march forth with a vision to develop sustainable products and processes along with consistent efforts towards becoming domain experts in the business. Our global R&D centres work collaboratively to make our processes and products more sustainable. Many of these innovations in product design have delivered extraordinary products that provide outstanding comfort and feel to the end consumers.
Development of next generation products such as Livaeco, Birla Modal, Birla Excel and Birla Spunshades has been a game changer in the industry. These innovations not only made the products more sustainable but also improved the sustainability of the entire value chain."
Some of the key innovations include: LivaSno Optically White VSF, Liva Reviva - A sustainable fibre made using 20% pre-consumer textile waste.