Elen Macarthur Foundation


Climatex Lifecycle, a Cradle to Cradle certified fabric, available to consumers

Swiss firm Rohner produces the Climatex Lifecycle biodegradable fabric, used extensively in the office furniture manufacturing business. The material is compostable, and true to the C2C founding principle of “waste = food”. “The team decided to design a fabric that would be safe enough to eat”, stressed William McDonough.

A new product, a new business model integrating social responsibility.


When carrying out the initial research to create the first 100% biodegradable synthetic fabric ever produced, the team asked suppliers for the composition of their ingredients in order to assess their degree of healthiness. Not surprisingly, they came up against the “secret recipe” argument but eventually Ciba-Geigy agreed to play the game. Out of the 8000 or so elements analysed, only 16 were selected, but that was enough to base a complete fabric line upon. Resulting commercial success proved huge and by 2002 Climatex Lifecycle accounted for a third of Rohner’s approximately $8 million in revenues.

As surprising as it may seem, the company eventually decided to share this valuable asset, allowing the entire fabric industry to use the Climatex Lifecycle production process free of charge.

The key facts and figures resulting from this C2C approach are as follows:

  • By 2002, Climatex Lifecycle accounted for a third of Rohner’s approximately $8 million in revenues (source: Investor Environmental Health Network).
  • Drastically reduced waste disposal costs, Rohner no longer have to pay to send trimmings to be burned at a Swiss-regulated incinerator or to Spain.
  • Scraps of the all-natural product were made into a feltlike material and sold to local farmers and gardeners for use as mulch or groundcover.
  • Overall production costs were lowered, by eliminating the need for filtering of dyes and chemicals in the production process.
  • Regulators inspecting the factory were “astounded to realize that the water coming out of the factory was as clean or cleaner than the water coming in from the town’s drinking water supply” (source: Investor Environmental Health Network).

“It had been seven years since we developed Climatex Lifecycle, and in that time, to our knowledge, no one else has developed a 100% safely biodegradable fabric, although there was a big interest in it. It’s not really green thinking if we just hold that information secret. It’s a good product that everyone should use.”

Bonnie Sonnenschein, corporate marketing manager for DesignTex, stakeholder in the Climatex Lifecycle project.

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