Research and Development

New AWI position to lift EU wool advocacy funding

Terry Sim, October 18, 2021

AWI’s former CEO and now chief marketing and innovation officer Stuart McCullough.

AUSTRALIAN Wool Innovation is standing solid behind former chief executive officer Stuart McCullough’s appointment to a new international role despite already outlaying hundreds of thousands of dollars to overseas marketing advisers.

An unidentified AWI spokesman today said Mr McCullough has accepted his appointment as chief marketing and innovation officer, but would give no further details of the position’s job description.

The AWI spokesman said Mr McCullough did not suggest his appointment and nor was it made as a result of any report or independent recommendation on what is needed to advocate for wool within the European Union’s Product Environmental Footprinting (PEF) project or maximise the opportunities for market share as the world comes out of COVID-19 conditions.

“We need to address issues across the wool supply chain, from processing concentration to ever-changing retail and consumer trends, and we need to continue driving demand for the fibre as the world recovers from COVID-19.

“Most immediately, we need to resist damaging changes to European Union labelling laws that would fail to recognise wool’s natural, sustainable and renewable benefits,” the spokesman said.

“What the Australian wool industry needs is a passionate advocate to take up those issues on behalf of the industry, and there is no one with a better skillset and experience than Stuart.

“It was a logical decision to free Stuart from his other responsibilities as CEO to enable him to devote his time to fighting for the wool growers on the world stage.”

The spokesman indicated that no attempt was made to ascertain if anyone else could have filled the new position, and nor was it advertised.

“The board decided this was the best use of Mr McCullough’s skills.”

The AWI spokesman also said the money to be spent on the new role could not be more effectively spent on paying experienced lobbyists in Europe, or supporting the lobbying efforts of the European wool processors on this issue.

The spokesman said Mr McCullough would play an important role in the proposed Natural Fibre Coalition, with the cotton industry, on behalf of AWI.

“The Natural Fibre Coalition was his (Mr McCullough’s) idea.”

The spokesman said AWI already has a major financial commitment to advocacy on the PEF issue and wool sustainability, and would not disclose how much AWI has allocated to the coalition.

According to AWI’s 2020-21 annual report, the company spent almost $700,000 on two senior staff members in European programs, including $359,514 to Fabrizio Servente for Italian industry strategic planning and $229,145 to Peter Ackroyd for international fibre advocacy. Under the project title of EU communications framework, AWI last financial year also outlayed $355,408 to the Brunswick Group LLP, Eco-Age and Jessica Simor.

The spokesman said the expenditure on Mr McCullough’s new role in Europe would be on top of what is already being spent on Italian representative Mr Servente, AWI fibre advocacy and eco credentials program manager Angus Ireland and Peter Ackroyd. Mr Ireland was not considered for the job, he said.

The spokesman said AWI was not intending to any cuts to its current expenditure on European staff and operations to help finance Stuart McCullough’s new position, although substantial cuts were made over the last 18 months.

“This is a decision to invest more again given the changed circumstances of COVID-19 and the product labelling issue in Europe.”

The AWI spokesman claimed any disclosure of Mr McCullough’s salary, benefit, tenure or severance terms in the new position, or of the tenure and severance terms of his CEO contract, would be a breach of privacy.

“The company has been progressing this for several months, the board endorsed it at their last meeting on October 8.”


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  1. Doug Wright, October 21, 2021

    Much has been made of the CEO moving to an overseas position. As sheep producers we will not know what is behind the move, we can only speculate.
    What we do know is that the board of AWI needs a shakeup and this election is the chance for the levy payers to ensure that.
    Given that one of the roles is marketing; I refer to Marketing 101: “Give the market what it wants and give it better than the opposition.”

  2. Martin Oppenheimer, October 18, 2021

    Another reason to vote 1 percent at WoolPoll.

  3. Chick Olsson, October 18, 2021

    Now more than ever, wool has to be defended strongly in key wool-selling countries. Wool is under attack from artificial fibres and also fanatical animal rights groups, and has to prove its market credentials. I believe AWI has made the right move appointing Stuart McCullough to this role. His experience is world-class.
    I am also appalled at some of the public comments on these pages. AWI staff just do what the AWI board instructs them to do, they don’t deserve some of the comments recently posted.

    • Jim Gordon, October 20, 2021

      Chick, we aren’t at war with everyone. Why are you so angry? If you want people to wear wool, you supply what they want. How do we get the wool industry to produce what the retailers want, instead of fighting the retailers to buy what wool growers want to produce?
      Why are you and AWI wanting to fight the welfare groups? They are easy to get along with, if you work with them. The cattle feedlot industry is a good example. They work with welfare groups and are getting good results. I have experienced first-hand, Mr McCullough’s anger, it’s not good. He will take that anger to Europe if anyone questions him. We don’t want to fight Europe, we need to supply what they want. In my opinion, he’s not the man for that job.
      High quality woollen apparel is so much better than synthetics; however, low quality mulesed wool is a problem. Why are you trying to keep the wool industry’s practices in the past? We can’t change the past, we can only change the future. We need to look at what the world will want from wool producers well into the future. Light fabric, 100 percent comfort, animal welfare issues solved, with transparency and traceability.
      Look at the coal industry: the world will phase out coal, it’s out of Australia’s control. It will be the same for wool unless AWI starts backing what the trade want.

      • Peter Small, October 20, 2021

        You are 100 percent correct Jim Gordon. AWI consists of angry old men fighting yesterday’s battles.

    • Peter Small, October 19, 2021

      Chick Olsson, since the first Imperial Wool Conference in 1936 wool growers have been bludgeoned into paying a tax on gross proceeds under the bogey of the “attack from artificial fibres”. Wool has always, and will always be, in competition with all other fibres, natural and synthetic. But wool is well able, with all its natural attributes, to hold its own. The problem for wool is, as you must surely know, the availability of certified non-mulesed wool. You must also surely know, and if you don’t you should, that failure by buyers to source properly accredited non- mulesed wool forces processors to move to other fibres.
      Is this the attack to which you allude? There is no point pointing the finger at “fanatical animal rights advocates”, that argument was lost a decade ago. Now the market requires increasing supplies of non-mulesed wool. Either growers respond to the market or risk substitution to other fibres.

      • Chick Olsson, October 20, 2021

        Hi Peter, thanks for your comments. I and am very happy to chat with you privately if that suits.
        I guess this argument shows how little many know about the true battles being fought in the textile world, especially in the use of the huge amounts of water used in producing 1 kg of finished wool, and further, this is now compounded by the amount of energy needed to produce wool (carbon footprint) as compared to synthetics. Believe it or not, synthetics currently look better on paper when a current water and carbon accounting analysis is used in fibre production. Stuart’s role in the EU is in my opinion more important than his previous post as CEO. One may be able to posit a decent argument on due process re his appointment, but that is a matter for the board to answer for.

        In the meantime, wool will need all its resources focused on these new areas of fibre environmental production costs vs other fibres, and with a strong anti-farming element now showing its hand in various parts of the UN and EU, wool now will have to earn its place in a new world of black and white accountability. I can only support the AWI board and Stuart’s new role. We need all the help we can get.

        • Donald Cameron, October 21, 2021

          Mr Olsson writes “with a strong anti-farming element now showing its hand in various parts of the UN and EU, wool now will have to earn its place in a new world of black and white accountability.” And yet Mr Olsson and McCullough both seem to support mulesing, either overtly and or by looking the other way.

          The strong anti-farm lobby desperate for accountability and transparency and angered by mulesing acolytes
          can only get stronger.

          Olsson also writes: “I can only support the AWI board and Stuart’s new role. We need all the help we can get.”

          He nailed it there, but for this to be the only outcome of due process, is surely inadequate, compared to a proper executive search process.

          A suitable ambassador for the Australian wool industry? I think not, for the last person the Europeans want to meet is someone who tolerates mulesing.

          So where was the due process in candidate selection for this $300,000 gig, left behind in the rush to catch the train?

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