THE global wool industry was urged to unite against common competitors and challenges, and growers were told to tell their story to counter animal activists, at the first Wool Connect conference last week.
Conference organiser Giovanni Schneider said the conference was about addressing the “two big elephants” in the room: traceability and sustainability, by putting all the stakeholders together.
“Some of our panellists represented the whole different spectrum of our wool consumers around the world and we expected to generate some reaction, which we did.
“What still frustrates me a lot is the ongoing competition between different protocols, different producing countries while our biggest enemy is not the neighbouring country, it’s plastic, whose market share is increasing every day,” he said.
“This trend has been going on for over 20 years and to reverse this trend we must learn to get together, forget about all the different corporations and wool bodies, because each one of us individually is really too small to drive any change.
“We are and we must emerge as a sustainable traceable open and co-operative industry and solve issues like animal welfare, sustainability and decarbonisation.
“As Doina (Ciobanu) said before, we must learn a little bit better how to promote ourselves,” he said.
“We have so many beautiful stories to tell … and we must be quick because the other industries are moving really fast.”
He said some of the other industry promotions might be considered ‘greenwashing’ but were still having impact with consumers.
“If we fail to do so, is we keep getting caught between our internal struggle, we will keep remaining a bunch of commodity producers, manufacturers and merchants.
“And honestly, I don’t want to do that, this is why we organised Wool Connect.”
Growers urged to tell their stories
Instagram influencer Doina Ciobanu urged wool growers to use social media to tell their story to consumers.
Ms Coibanu has more than 600,000 followers on Instagram and also consults on sustainability within the fashion industry with brands and is an ambassador for the No. More. Plastic. initiative.
“I speak on behalf of the consumers, which I am.
“I am a consumer, and I also work within the fashion industry as a marketing expert by having a big following by interacting with the audience
“I’m here kind of to inspire you a little bit to get out there and tell your story.”
She said growers should just get out there and tell their story.
“And that is what social media and the internet should be for you.
Ms Ciobanu said she had noticed some chat during the conference about misinformation and how the industry has been misrepresented.
“That is the reason why you should get out there, because right now all we know as a consumer about the wool industry is the horrible videos that PETA puts out there, which as you know in a lot of cases are very far reality.
“In reality, when you talk to the normal consumer, that is what they imagine about the wool industry, they straight away think of those very graphic images that PETA presents out there in social media,” she said.
“The reason for that is you’re not out there telling your own story and if you are not going to be out there telling your story, others will do it for you.”
Ms Ciobanu said when she Googled ‘the truth behind wool’ the first two items listed were from PETA; a graphic ‘the truth about wool’ video and a PETA wool industry segment.
She said growers and farmers were missing a huge opportunity by not being active on social media and the internet.
“You have the potential to get out there online, whether on Instagram, whether on TikTok, and tell your own story and tell your side of the story.”
She said growers should do this by being honest.
“You share your struggle, you share the reality behind, you share your progress, you connect the consumer to what you do.”
The goal should be about building thousands of followers, Ms Coibanu said.
“You should be looking at social media and the internet as a brand value book.
“You are out there to show what you stand for, to show what you do, to show the end result of it, to show the brands that use your product.”
Ms Coibanu said growers should consider the concept of a program like Fashion Revolution’s ‘Who Made My Clothes’ initiative within their context.
“To my mind, the consumer is so interested right now in traceability and at some point it will be a very interesting opportunity to allow the consumer to trace their wool garments back to your farm.”
She said consumers might overlook or not trust the certification and science behind wool or regard it as ‘greenwashing.’
“But connecting with the farmers, the growers through social media, by going online and see what they have been doing for year in their day to day lives and how they treat the animals, that is going to be the real impact.”