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Betting $61 Million on Sustainable Fashion: Making a Case for Wood Fibre Clothing

Suzano SA, the world’s largest wood pulp maker is betting big on sustainable technology. Finnish startup Spinnova and Suzano SA are both entering a 50-50 joint venture to build a commercial-scale facility for the production of a green-fibre made from the nanoparticles of pulp. An investment of 50 million euros ($60.7 million) was made for the production of the new facility.

Swedish clothing giant H&M will join the group of Scandinavian fashion brands that are participating in the development of materials in order to be a client of the green fiber.

The move follows a global trend in the fashion world, including companies like Chanel Ltd. and H&M, that are aiming to put an environmentally-friendly gloss on the business to lure clients and gain access to the green bond market. H&M is “continuously testing and actively looking to further integrate the use of sustainable materials through our group’s brands,” Mattias Bodin, H&M Group’s Circular Innovation Lab Lead, said in a statement.

The entrance of H&M, which operates more than 5,000 stores in over 70 countries, paves the way for Suzano to be a major player in the textile segment. A major global supplier of the material used to make paper cups and tissue, the Brazilian company has a team of almost a hundred scientists researching beyond-paper applications for its wood and is aiming to replace fossil-fuel products, like plastics. “It is not a niche market for us,” Vinicius Nonino, Suzano’s new business director, said in an interview. “We want to be a relevant player. We will compete with cotton with sustainability advantages and also with price.”

Unlike viscose, another textile fiber also made from wood, the pulp provided by Suzano to be used by Spinnova is processed without chemicals. Instead, it’s refined mechanically. “We use much less water than cotton in the whole process, from the eucalyptus cultivation through the fiber production,” said Fernando Bertolucci, Suzano’s head of technology and innovation.