Metsä Group’s Kuura textile fibre gained important recognition in sustainability matters

Kuura textile fibre, which is made from Metsä Group’s softwood pulp, received a ‘Green Shirt’ rating based on the evaluation arranged by not-for-profit environmental organisation Canopy. Their annual Hot Button Ranking is a well-established tool used in the global textile and fashion industries to assess the sustainability of wood-based textile fibres.


Metsä Group’s Kuura textile fibre has achieved high scores based on the Hot Button Ranking evaluation arranged by the Canadian not-for-profit environmental organisation Canopy (see “MI Demo”, which is the subsidiary that owns and operates the Kuura demo plant in Äänekoski, Finland). The Kuura textile fibre, made out of softwood pulp from the Äänekoski bioproduct mill, was awarded for the third consecutive year with a ‘Green Shirt’ rating, the requirements of which are a risk-free, transparent supply chain and traceable raw materials. Leading brand owners, in terms of environmental sustainability, exclusively source fibre from ‘Green Shirt’ producers.


The textile fibre market is expected to grow from approximately US$42 billion in 2022 up to US$66 billion by 2030. Metsä Group’s Kuura concept is based on a vision to offer the global textile and non-woven industries a new textile fibre with a significantly reduced environmental footprint. The ongoing R&D-focused phase for developing the Kuura concept is a joint effort of ITOCHU Textile Company, a part of Japanese trading giant ITOCHU Corporation, and Metsä Group’s innovation company Metsä Spring. With the collaboration, Kuura has already been utilised in creating fashionable and sustainable outfits like jackets and shirts, as well as in cutting-edge artwork that promotes the future of sustainable fibres.


“The Hot Button Ranking criteria have been made stricter every year. The fact that our operations were evaluated as worthy of the Green Shirt level for a third consecutive time shows that we have also moved forward in sustainability matters. Kuura is still in the research and development phase, which involves testing and developing the production process at the demo plant and assessing the market interest towards the new fibre. However, we are already attracting interest from some of the world’s largest and leading sustainable fashion houses, which reinforces the notion that we are on the right track with Kuura,” says CEO of Metsä Spring Niklas von Weymarn.


The Kuura textile fibre has also been evaluated by neutral expert organisations using the ISO standardised Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). The LCA is a method to measure and assess the environmental (and societal) impacts of any product. In the conducted assessments, it was determined that the large-scale production of Kuura would emit clearly lower greenhouse gas levels compared to currently commercially available bio-based textile fibres and polyester fibres. Hence, in the so-called Global Warming Potential category, Kuura ranked as best in class, mainly thanks to its production being integrated into the unit producing pulp. This, in turn, makes the total energy requirement to make Kuura fibres very favourable. Moreover, all energy utilised in producing the Kuura fibre would be renewable.


Additionally, the Kuura textile fibre is also perfectly suited to the EU’s plans to bring forward regulation related to the circular economy of textiles, as the fibre is essentially unmodified cellulose fibres produced by nature. This means that Kuura is 100% recyclable and naturally biodegradable. Compared to cotton fibres, the production of wood-based textile fibres, especially when made using wood from Nordic forests, does not compete with food production, and does not require irrigation water, fertilisers or pesticides.


“What also makes Kuura special is the backward traceability, which, in turn, takes us back to the over 90,000 Finnish forest owners that are owner-members of the parent company behind Metsä Group. All the wood used for Kuura (in practice pine and spruce) would be procured within a 100-km radius from the entity comprising the bioproduct mill and the Kuura mill,” von Weymarn says.


While proceeding with the Kuura test production in the EUR 40 million demo plant located in Äänekoski, Metsä Spring is simultaneously developing the technical concept of a possible first commercial textile fibre mill. In Metsä Group's concept, the Kuura mill would be integrated into a modern bioproduct mill in order to maximise the industrial efficiency of textile fibre production.