Archroma marks three years of progress in growing sustainability
Wednesday 05. October 2016 - Archroma, a leader in color and specialty chemicals, turned three on October 1. "Even though it is still very young, Archroma has accomplished a great deal", says CEO Alexander Wessels. He also has big plans for the future.
“Archroma is already a leader in driving sustainability in the value chain,” says Wessels. “We intend to build on that position, making use of innovations we have developed and continue to develop for implementation use across our markets.”
Basel, Switzerland-based Archroma started life in 2013 when private investment firm SK Capital Partners acquired Clariant’s textile, paper and emulsions businesses. In 2014, Archroma acquired 49% of M. Dohmen, an international group specializing in the production of textile dyes and chemicals for the automotive, carpet and apparel sectors, and in July 2015 it added the global textile chemicals business of BASF. Archroma now has 25 production facilities: 11 in Americas, eight in the EMEA region, and six in Asia.
Archroma supplies the textile supply chain with chemicals for pre-treatment, dyeing, printing and finishing of textiles. It serves the paper market with its expertise in the management of whiteness, coloration, special coatings and strength for all kind of papers. Archroma also supplies emulsions products used in paints, adhesives, construction, as well as in the textile, leather and paper industries.
“Archroma is now on a strong top and bottom line growth curve”, says Wessels, “and we have been rapidly expanding innovation expenditure since we carved out the business from its previous owner.”
A typical example of the company’s efforts to improve sustainability in the textiles industry is its work in dyeing systems for denim under the brand “Advanced Denim”. Patagonia, one of the most forward thinking of the major clothes brands, was the first last year to announce a new dyeing and manufacturing process developed using Archroma’s Advanced Denim technology.
Advanced Denim uses dyestuffs that bond more easily to cotton, minimizing the resource usage of traditional dyeing of denim. As a result, Patagonia is using 84% less water, 30% less energy and emitting 25% less CO2 than conventional synthetic indigo denim dyeing processes.
Denim production normally requires the use of massive amounts of water. “If all the world’s jeans were made using our Advanced Denim dyeing technology, we could save the same amount of water as that used by several large European cities,” Wessels claims. “Our Advanced Denim solution is now increasingly being adopted by various brands across the world.”
Since its inception, Archroma has been bringing onto the market new products and services aimed at improving product quality and sustainability at its customers while boosting its own business. In 2014, for example, it launched a new range of “biosynthetic” dyes for cotton and cellulose-based fabrics named “EarthColors” and designed to provide rich red, brown and green colors to denim and casualwear. In this patent-pending process, Archroma makes use of almond shells, saw palmetto, rosemary leaves, and other natural non-edible agricultural waste products that would otherwise be sent to landfill.
In March 2015, Archroma introduced a new water repellency agent for outdoor clothing in cotton and synthetic fibers: Its “Smartrepel Hydro” range based on non-fluorine chemistry. As such, it supports the increasing adoption of eco-advanced materials and production processes by textile producers and brand owners adhering to industry initiatives such as the Joint Roadmap towards Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC), and eco-label standards such as bluesign((1) and Oeko-Tex(2).
This spring, the company also introduced eco-advanced solutions in its range of optical brightening agents (OBAs) for printing and writing papers. Both innovations, marketed under the names Leucophor ACS and “Advanced Whitening”, aim to offer solutions that require reduced dosage for papermakers, thereby lowering their transport costs and carbon footprint.
“It is a misconception that innovation and sustainability need to come necessarily at a premium,” concludes Wessels. “Eventually for any solution or product to find acceptance in the mainstream of business it cannot command a high premium. There is value to be absorbed and derived in every part of the supply chain. Technologies and innovation eventually need to be created in a manner that it is made affordable to everyone. In its first three years, it is a mindset to challenge the status quo and everyday try to make our customers’ products and processes more sustainable. Archroma has shown that this is possible, and we intend to continue on this path well into the future.”