CELC becomes the Alliance for European Flax-Linen & Hemp
The European confederation of linen and hemp (CELC) has changed its name to the Alliance for European Flax-Linen & Hemp (the Alliance), and in the process it has strengthened its organisation and staff, to deal with the numerous challenges facing this unique industry.
As well as changing name, the Alliance has adopted a new corporate identity. The new hexagonal logo’s geometric shape represents both a verdant field and the stylised icons of seven figures standing side by side, symbolising the seven trades that constitute the European flax and hemp industry. The design also hints at a fingerprint, representing one of the four goals in the Alliance’s mission statement: “be proof-obsessed.” Besides traceability, the other goals are “be united”, “connect tradition and innovation”, and “radiate respect” both for people and the environment.
“It is time for us to update our identity, so that the image we project may reflect what we have become and have the ambition to become: a collective that represents the entire value chain of the European flax and hemp industry, an organization that is open to the world, a sector that is innovative, creative and above all sustainable,” said the Alliance’s president Bart Depourcq. The latter underlined that the industry is the first in the agro-industrial sector to calculate its environmental impact using the new European methodology called PEF (product environmental footprint).
The Alliance's change in corporate identity comes at a time when the European hemp industry is planning for the future. “To develop a hemp textile sector complementary to flax, we are modelling ourselves on the successful practices adopted by the European flax sector,” said Depourcq, who is also the managing director of Dutch flax producer Van de Bilt. “This will enable us to meet the growing demand for plant-based fibres. That is why we are setting up a European industry working group to address this challenge,” he added.
Making flax and hemp the preferred sustainable fibres
The European flax and hemp industry currently includes some 10,000 companies based in 16 European countries. Flax, a cultivation that uses little water and farming inputs, is almost exclusively grown on the coastal strip extending from Normandy to the Netherlands. France is the central hub for this crop, which is demanding but profitable for farmers.
Flax currently accounts for only 0.4% of all fibres produced worldwide, but the industry intends to take advantage of flax’s sustainability and other unique qualities to become a standard bearer for environmentally friendly materials.
“We want to make European flax and hemp the preferred sustainable premium fibres worldwide,” said Marie-Emmanuelle Belzung, CEO of the Alliance. “We want to expand our ecosystem, which is unique in the textiles and agriculture industries’ landscape. We want to become an international benchmark for innovation and sustainability, notably by providing clear and well-structured information on the environmental features of products (…). Because no criterion can be assessed without traceability,” she added.
In this field, the Alliance has created the Masters of Linen brand, guaranteeing that products are 100% made with European linen, and the European Flax quality label, identifying premium European fabrics. The latter has reportedly been adopted by 800 companies in 33 countries, equivalent to a growth of almost 632% since January 2020. More broadly, the industry has set itself the mission of being able to meet the need for identifying the provenance of all raw materials it uses, and of the products it manufactures.
Towards new industry tools
Pursuing this effort for transparency and data gathering, a pilot test involving various digital traceability tools, notably blockchain technology, will be deployed in 2023. The project is part of the activities promoted by France’s national strategic committee for the fashion and luxury industries.
“In future, fibre descriptions via optical imaging will integrate the organoleptic method through which fibres have traditionally been identified, resorting to criteria based on the five senses. This is an absolutely strategic innovation challenge,” said Belzung, who will soon submit a dossier on this issue to France’s General Secretariat for Investment, as part of the France 2030 plan.
Looking to the future, the Alliance has commissioned a study on the industry's business models to consulting firm Kea Partners and the French Fashion Institute. The study will cover flax fibre and linen manufacturing, the global market and re-industrialisation challenges, interviewing 80 specialists to identify the scenarios and functional tools needed to support the sector’s operational development over the next few years. The report is expected to be published by the end of January 2023.
Strengthening staff and structure
Presenting its new name and corporate identity, the Alliance has also highlighted its new organisation. “Shifting from CELC's promotional mode to the Alliance’s value-creating vision means reinventing ourselves, and the organisation’s characteristics have therefore significantly changed,” said Belzung.
The Alliance's activity is carried out by four sections: on the development side, Innovation & CSR and Promotion (marketing and communication), respectively led by Julie Pariset and Chantal Malingrey. And two advisory sections, the Economic Observatory led by Damien Durand, and the Industry Practices section led by Dimitri Soverini.
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