Ellen 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.

Download as PDF


The Ellen MacArthur Foundation launch...
26th June 2015 – The Ellen MacArthur Foundation today launches the results of its latest research which ...
Circular economy would increase Europ...
25th June 2015 – This major report by Ellen MacArthur Foundation and McKinsey Center for Business and En...
New circularity assessment tools laun...
12th May 2015 – The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Granta Design have launched new indicators which, fo...
Latest insight and circular economy n...
24th April 2015 – Circulate, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's new hub for circular economy news, editoria...

The Economics

The first macroeconomic report series into the size of the prize for business in the transition to a circular economy


Sign up for updates

Register to receive a monthly update from the Foundation, with latest news, editorial comment and event opportunities

Resource downloads

Film clips, publications, colour graphics, presentations…raw material for a range of educational activities.


Global Partners of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Circular Economy 100 Members