Rohner Textiles: Cradle-to-Cradle Innovation and Sustainability

5 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008

See all articles by Andrea Larson

Andrea Larson

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Jeff York

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business


This minicase is one of 10 in a set of short cases written to illustrate the business benefits companies realize through adopting sustainable business strategies. This case describes the supply chain management and internal changes by Swiss firm Rohner, a commercial fabric manufacturer, as it transformed its strategy from conventional production to benign fabric based on the application of cradle-to-cradle design. The case illustrates the way firms can turn sustainability ideas into growth and differentiation opportunities.





Albin Kälin faced an all too familiar dilemma in manufacturing: that of shrinking margins coupled with rising costs and aging equipment. As managing director of the Swiss firm Rohner Textil AG (Rohner), Kälin made the decision to bolster his firm's efforts to pursue a sustainability strategy. The result was a 30% increase in total output, a drastic reduction in costs, and the production of the first 100% biodegradable commercial fabric. In the manufacturing world, where environmental improvement is viewed as a cost and not a path to strategic and financial gain, how did Rohner successfully pursue an environmental and health agenda while drastically reducing fixed costs and overhead and promoting growth?

The company could not do it alone. Only by forming a network of experts in areas ranging from fabric design, office furniture sales, chemistry R&D, and green architecture along with collaborative suppliers was Rohner able to harness the expertise to produce Climatex® Lifecycle™. In the process, Rohner produced a fabric that revolutionized the textile industry and set a precedent for responsive environmental design.

The story of Climatex Lifecycle is not simply about one company's environmental and financial success; it is one of collaboration and networks. Each individual and organization involved in the project was subject to a variety of motivations and beliefs that brought them to work on the new fabric idea. But by uniting behind the shared vision that a fabric that met the rigid demands of office furniture suppliers and did no environmental harm was possible, the network was able to assemble and successfully bring an industry-changing product to market.

. . .

Keywords: Innovation, entrepreneurship, sustainable business, sustainability, triple bottom line, natural environment, environmental, ecology, ecological, strategy, implementation, financial returns, green, greening

Suggested Citation

Larson, Andrea and York, Jeff, Rohner Textiles: Cradle-to-Cradle Innovation and Sustainability. Darden Case No. UVA-ENT-0085, Available at SSRN:

Andrea Larson (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States


Jeff York

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

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