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5 Minutes with… Elisabeth Stanger of Lenzing.

Elisabeth Stanger, Head of Marketing & Business Development, Global Pulp and Wood/Biorefinery at Lenzing AG.

“We do see a huge potential in the biorefinery market, particularly in acetic acid. But despite the numerous opportunities, consumers may not be aware of the benefits and this is something we need to address.”

Sustainability is the dominating issue of our times. The textile industry has a large impact on the environment and companies such as Lenzing are trying to find solutions to reduce this impact. Lenzing produces wood-based fibres which are used in the textile industry.

Here, Bio Market Insights’ Liz Gyekye catches up with Elisabeth Stanger, Head of Marketing & Business Development, Global Pulp and Wood/Biorefinery at Lenzing AG.

Liz Gyekye (LG): What’s the story behind the Lenzing Group?

Elizabeth Stanger (ES): It is the belief in “innovation and sustainability” that drives Lenzing’s success.

Lenzing (@LenzingAG) has been developing sustainable processes for 80 years in order to make functional fibres for modern society out of cellulose, which is a natural product. Lenzing utilises resource-efficient technologies and runs its operations in a sustainable way (e.g. biorefinery, closed-loop process, responsible water treatment, decarbonisation of production.)

With extensive and comprehensive research that covers the entire value chain, beginning with the raw material of wood to the fibres and the different applications, Lenzing also sets new industry standards by offering innovative and sustainable fibres.

This special quality of our “Lenzing Spirit” – shaped by entrepreneurial thinking, responsibility and vision – that always leveraged our competitive advantage. That is why we have been looking beyond fibre. With wood as our natural resource, we hope to bring solutions that care for our partners’ success, our planet’s protection and people’s needs in everyday life.

Take the most recent example: our biorefinery. The biorefinery concept ensures that 100% of wood components are used to produce pulp for our botanic fibres, biorefinery products, and bioenergy, thus remaining as CO2 neutral as possible.

LG: Before you did your current role, what were you doing before?

ES: I am currently Head of Marketing & Business Development, Global Pulp and Wood/Biorefinery, Lenzing AG, focusing on strengthening Lenzing’s biorefinery portfolio. In this role, I am dedicated to achieving ecological sustainability by pushing for the utilisation of the natural and sustainable resource wood. That includes transforming wood into biorefinery products such as bio-based materials and bioenergy.

My journey in Lenzing started in 2010 as Global Marketing Director in the nonwovens segment, where I established a global marketing team, launched the VEOCEL Lyocell fibres in the application of facial sheet masks. It has been a fruitful journey as the team endeavours to work towards the goal of being a value chain partner and fostering closer relationship with our consumers.

Now, as the head of marketing and business development, I am working closely with my colleagues from various functions around the globe to strengthen our biorefinery product portfolio. An initial step was to bring the biorefinery product portfolio under the LENZING brand to our industry partners. A second pillar is to enhance our product pipeline via a close cooperation with Lenzing’s R&D department. My ambition is to strengthen the sustainable footprint of Lenzing further via a strong biorefinery portfolio which enables our customers to green their supply chain with highly functional products.

Prior to joining Lenzing, I held several positions in clinical research, marketing and business unit management within the pharmaceutical and medical device industry. Since the beginning of my career, it has been my goal to improve people’s lives via products that make a difference. My experience in the pharmaceutical experience is extremely helpful in my current role and allows me to have an in-depth understanding of the industry, as Lenzing is a provider of innovative raw materials targeting these industries amongst others.

LG: What’s been the biggest challenge in growing the biorefinery business within your company?

ES: Lenzing has a long history of biorefinery and is well established as a key player in the cellulose fibre business. Lenzing has already set industry examples in biorefinery and I am proud of what we have achieved so far, particularly our holistic approach to the biorefinery process.

Lenzing’s biorefinery process ensures 100% of wood constituents are used to produce dissolving wood pulp – the most important raw material in the production of Lenzing’s fibres of botanic origin- biorefinery products including bio-based materials, and bioenergy, thus maximising value creation from an economic and environmental perspective.

We do see a huge potential in the biorefinery market, particularly in acetic acid. But despite the numerous opportunities, consumers may not be aware of the benefits and this is something we need to address.

At this point, it is important for us to work closely with our partners throughout the value chain. Not only we would need to educate consumers on the importance and benefits of choosing bio-based products, but also improve transparency of the products so that consumers can make informed choices.

LG: What’s coming up next for your company?

ES: There are two key focus areas for Lenzing on biorefinery.

Firstly, with the gaining importance of sustainability it is key to educate our value chain partners and consumers, so that they can make product choices that are good for them and for the planet. Lenzing is driving the discussion of bio-based products such as acetic acid in the industry actively.

This year in May, Lenzing participated in the 12th International Conference on Bio-based Materials, where I had the opportunity to present on the topic “Circular Economy – Sustainable Solutions from Biorefinery Products and from Cellulosic Fibres”, and we have received very positive feedback from the attendees. In the coming months, Lenzing will continue to actively take part in other major tradeshows such as Chemspec Europe and SEPAWA Congress to showcase our latest LENZING for Biorefinery Products offerings, including the certified food-grade LENZING Acetic Acid Biobased of renewable botanic origin. Our intention is to work much closer with our value chain partners to communicate the benefits of bio-based products along the supply chain.

Secondly, we will continue to develop new biorefinery products based on the sustainable raw material wood with Lenzing’s expertise in research and development. While the details of our R&D portfolio are protected by confidentiality, the main idea is to materialise an even higher proportion of the raw material wood. Wood is such a precious product, that many development streams are open. And the best of it, it is renewable! As an outdoor person I love to spend time in the mountains and breath the good air in the forests around me and get inspired for more creative products of the future.

LG: What advice would you give to someone else looking to launch their own company/product in this space?

ES: These days, transparency is more important than ever. Consumers want to be informed and are looking for details of where the product comes from and how it is produced, and they are becoming more eco-conscious. We are all getting more aware of the consequences we could bring to the environment with our product choices.

I believe information transparency is one key thing to be mindful of whenever one wants to gain a foothold in the biorefinery market, especially when the consumers of this industry are generally more eco-conscious in terms of decision making.

LG: What’s your favourite sustainable/bio-based product?

ES: LENZING Acetic Acid Biobased would be my favourite.

When compared to fossil-based refinery counterparts, biorefinery industry often faces the challenge of limited product portfolio due to highly specialised conversion technologies; LENZING for Biorefinery Products brings sustainable alternatives to fossil-based biorefinery and product versatility.

Derived from pulp from beech wood, LENZING Acetic Acid Biobased is free from solids and high in purity. It has a range of applications within the food, pharmaceutical and food industry, and acts as a basic chemical in a variety of fields.

With significantly lower greenhouse gas (GHG) impact than the European Union and global average of acetic acid production, LENZING Acetic Acid Biobased comes with a reduced carbon footprint which is at least 85% lower than that of fossil-based acetic acid.

If you were interested in this story, you may also be interested in the ones below.

Read: 5 Minutes With… Jonah Mwangi from Green Nettle Textile.

Read: 5 Minutes With… Sally-Anne Kasner from Circular Vision.

Read: The last word with… Thomas Kolster a.k.a. Mr Goodadvertising.

Take part: Bio Market Insights reader survey 2019.

Read: 5 Minutes With…Georgia Parker from Fashion for Good.

Read: Lenzing uses blockchain technology to help customers track its bio-based fibres from wood to clothes.

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