The environmental impact of European Flax-Linen

Alliance for European Flax-Linen & Hemp is committing the industry to measuring its impacts, sharing its Life Cycle data with leading databases and supporting the European PEF method (Product Environmental Footprint). An environmental trajectory for continuous improvement.

European Flax-Linen environmental impact

NEW ! European flax fibre life cycle data has now been integrated into the version 3.10 ecoinvent database

Find out more about the main changes in the dedicated article

Context and objectives

Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is a multi-criteria method used to measure the environmental impact of a product throughout its life cycle, from raw material to end of life, accounting for packaging, distribution and use.
The European flax industry has come together to provide reliable, qualitative data that is 100% representative of all European flax materials and processes.

Through its co-constructing efforts, the Alliance aims to:

  • highlight the environmental profile of European flax-linen, with its agricultural and industrial specificities;
  • make data available thanks to collaborations with key databases;
  • enable businesses and brands to calculate the impacts of their products made from European materials and processing, while highlighting the European Flax™ and Masters of Linen™ certifications of origin and traceability
  • meet consumer expectations and upcoming regulations

In terms of method, the Alliance supports the development of the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF). This is the method developed and recommended by the European Commission. It is based on LCA principles, with strict modelling rules for its 16 impact categories and overall score to ensure that new PEF studies will be more reproducible, comparable and verifiable compared with existing approaches and ISO standards.

As a voting member of the PEF Apparel & Footwear technical secretariat, the Alliance for European Flax-Linen & Hemp is helping to draft the PEF sectorial rules for apparel and footwear, and to make sure that the unique characteristics of flax are considered: collaborative work with stakeholders at the European level and public consultations (2020-2025).

Travaux structurants Alliance copyright Alliance

 Life cycle data of European Flax™ fibre

Lin et impact environnemental copyright Alliance S. Randé

As step one of this environmental trajectory, strategic Life Cycle data were made available for European Flax™ scutched flax fibre since 2022:

  • robust: compliant with PEF methodology with 16 impact categories verified by critical review
  • qualitative: field data that is 100% specific to flax grown and scutched in France, Belgium and the Netherlands
  • representative of Western European fibres and therefore of fibre blends found in European Flax and/or Masters of Linencertified materials

The data was co-constructed with the expertise from the two Agronomic reference institutes for flax (Arvalis Institut du Végétal for France and Inagro for Belgium and the Netherlands), statistical data from the Flax-Linen and Hemp Economic Observatory, consulting by Yukan / Glimpact, and critical review by Maki Consulting.

An LCA study was published, describing European Flax™ fibre practices: no irrigation barring exceptional circumstances, integrated crop management practices including crop rotations and low inputs, etc. It also analysed their impacts according to PEF method, v.2.0. including main findings such as the remarkably low impacts (Water consumption; Eutrophication, freshwater), or major impact (Land use). 
Important: while this remains interesting on an information point of view, v2.0. impact data are no longer valid and can no longer be used Access subject to these conditions on : Life Cycle Assessment [LCA] of European Flax™ scutched fibre.

Accessibility and updates:

  • European Flax™ long scutched fibre dataset EF 3.1
    In January 2023 the impact data were recalculated as part of the European Commission’s EF 3.1 database under the updated PEF method. The dataset was a joint project between the Alliance (CELC) and a consortium commissioned by the EC and led by ecoinvent and Blonk Consultants (the Alliance and consortium signed a cooperation agreement). This dataset, as the entire 3.1 database, is available free of charge for calculating impact in compliance with the PEF method. It is available in the European database through the node of Blonk, as well as on the main LCA software solutions such as SimaPro, and on tools for calculating PEF like Glimpact.
  • ecoinvent database version 3.10
    New! The life cycle data for European flax fibres has now been integrated into the ecoinvent database, novembre 2023.
    Ecoinvent is a global leader in life cycle data, which then populates the main LCA software solutions.
    The Alliance and ecoinvent decided to collaborate, as no data about Western European Flax existed previously in the database. This joint effort, under a specific agreement, enabled to integrate into ecoinvent data both for scutched long fibres and for scutching short fibres, available as inventory and impact data. Information about ecoinvent database, license and access: ecoinvent.
  • Higg Index
    European Flax™ long hackled fibre data is available since 2020 in the Higg Material Sustainability Index, developed by Cascale (formely known as Sustainable Apparel Coalition) on the Worldly platform

An environmental trajectory across the processing chain

The Alliance engages and supports businesses in each processing step for Life Cycle data, with two goals:

  • collectively, to calculate and publish average impact data, on a European scope, for each process
  • individually, to implement their own environmental trajectory by measuring their impacts and identifying ways of reducing them

This pre-competitive collaboration helps build collective tools together, pool time and financial resources, and provide dedicated support and advice from the Alliance’s teams and its experts at COSE361 and Yukan. 

Pilot phase - the first deliverables:

  • Mapping of processes for European Flax-Linen
    Identifies the production and processing stages for long and short fibres: process and flow of material inputs and outputs.
    Facilitates dialogue among brands, their flax value chain, their LCA experts, to identify the relevant datasets. The Mapping of processes for European Flax-Linen is available in the media library.
  • Data collection templates tailored to each process (not public).

Deployment phase - currently underway:

Each stage of long and short European Flax fibre processing is the subject of a dedicated dataset measuring environmental footprint, representative of the industry average in Europe:

  • Re-scutched short fibres 
  • Hackling, long fibres 
  • Carding-combing, short fibres
  • Cottonizing
  • Preparation for spinning, long fibres
  • Wet spinning
  • Preparation + dry spinning

Deliverables are expected in 2024, to be made available in the European databases. Weaving and knitting will be addressed at a later stage.

While organising this collective effort, the Alliance is also supporting its members in calculating the impact of their own processes, in order to provide an even more tailored response to the requests of their clients, and to manage their performance with the goal of continuous improvement.

ACV fibre de lin européen teillée Alliance

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