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.”