Responsible Wool Standard gets AWEX nod, but first RWS clips likely offshore

Terry Sim, September 30, 2016

RWS logo Sept 2016TEXTILE Exchange’s Responsible Wool Standard has gained registration as an assurance scheme with wool marketing services provider, the Australian Wool Exchange, but the first RWS-accredited clips are likely to come from overseas growers.

At least two Australian-based wool suppliers – Lempriere and New Merino Australia — and fifteen international brands have committed to the ground-breaking wool quality assurance scheme, the global non-profit Textile Exchange has announced.

Melbourne knitting company ABMT Textiles has also committed to the new standard, and Lempriere is involved with the RWS in Australia and South Africa.

However, Textile Exchange believes it is likely the first certified RWS wool will come from either South Africa, South America or New Zealand.

The Responsible Wool Standard is a voluntary global standard that addresses the welfare of sheep and of the land they graze on. It has sparked concern among some Australian wool industry bodies and growers because it excludes wool from mulesed sheep, except conditionally from properties that have ceased mulesing.

However, the RWS has been pilot audited, calibrated and applied to wool-growing farms of different sizes, geographic regions and countries since its release in June this year, including Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America, Argentina, China, the United Kingdom and South Africa.

AWEX registration will ensure RWS identification at auctions

Textile Exchange’s director of industry integrity Anne Gillespie said the AWEX registration was not necessary for the RWS to operate in Australia, but wool brokers requested it so it would be available through the auction system.

“This step will allow wool growers and brokers in Australia to register their wool clips as RWS Certified and will appear in the auction catalogue as ‘RWS’, so that wool buyers can easily identify RWS wool in the Australian auction system,” she said.

AWEX auction participants and wool IT vendors have been notified of the addition of RWS to AWEX’s EDI Quality registration scheme(s) from October 10 this year. The RWS is not the first assurance program to be registered; organic wool preceded it.

RWS technical committee member Stuart Adams said he hosted a meeting in Australia in August attended by about 75 percent of the country’s wool brokers.

“The wool brokers had some very constructive feedback which has been taken on board, including the registration of the RWS with AWEX,” he said.

Mr Adams said about five Australian wool growers and grower groups were undergoing RWS certification.

“They have been audited and are working through the process of completing the paper work.

“There are numerous growers in other countries that have been audited and are completing the process for certification.”

South Africa and New Zealand have been very aggressive at getting the RWS underway and Argentina is close behind, he said.

“The US and Uruguay are also pushing hard to have growers certified.

“We have spoken with the British Wool Marketing Board who is also very interested to be kept informed on the progress,” Mr Adams said.

“The standard has initially been targeted at the apparel sector of the wool industry; however, the strong wools sector is keen to participate.”

The first RWS wool will probably come from Australia’s competitors

Ms Gillespie said it was looking like the first certified RWS wool will come from either South Africa, South America or New Zealand. She said the first RWS scope certificate will be issued to the German retail chain Tchibo by global certification company Control Union by the end of October. The certificate will mean Tchibo conforms to the chain of custody requirement for the RWS.

“It may be a number of months before RWS certified wool is available but once it is, the scope certificate will allow Tchibo to start to continuously integrate the certified material when it becomes available.”

Ms Gillespie said wool suppliers and companies who have expressed their commitment to the Responsible Wool Standard include Rambler’s Way, Imperial Stock Ranch, New Merino Australia, Oviz 21, Chargeurs, Melbourne knitter ABMT Textiles, Lanas Trinidad and Lemprière. Several other wool suppliers have participated in global training events with a focus on setting up an RWS supply chain.

Textile Exchange has reported that fifteen brands have made commitments to the Responsible Wool Standard; including H&M, Marks & Spencer, William-Sonoma, Inc., Patagonia, Eddie Bauer, REI, Eileen Fisher, Tchibo, Varner, Vaude, Coyuchi, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Deckers, Kathmandu, and Knowledge Cotton Apparel.

What brands say about the Responsible Wool Standard

Madelene Ericsson, the environmental sustainability business expert at Swedish multinational clothing retailer H&M, said the company commits to using RWS wool and has a long term goal to only use RWS certified wool in its products.

Damien Huang, the senior vice-president of product and design at US clothing chain Eddie Bauer, said the company is committed to the RWS and will begin shifting its material base to RWS-certified fibre in 2017, with a goal of being 100pc certified as soon as its supply chain can provide RWS fibre across all categories.

Jesse Montano, marketing and ecommerce vice-president at US natural home furnisher Coyuchi said the company took expert care to ensure that everything that bears the Coyuchi label is produced and processed to the strictest environmental standards in safe and humane conditions, from farm to factory to home.

“Thus, we’re looking forward to adopting RWS wool in our supply chain for Fall 2017.”

Nick Allen, traceability manager for American clothing company Patagonia said RWS is a key component of Patagonia’s approach to wool sourcing.

“We’re proud to have played a significant role in its development along with the Textile Exchange and many other committed partners.”

Textile Exchange has said ten additional companies have expressed support of the standard and are working toward implementation. These include LL Bean, Arc’teryx, Indigenous Designs, Nau, Point6 and prAna.

Anne Marie Ragland, product development manager for prana, said the lifestyle clothing company supported the work of Textile Exchange to establish a Responsible Wool Standard.

“We look forward to developing our targets for future use once the supply chain is adequately developed.”

Source: Textile Exchange.


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  1. Peter Small, October 4, 2016

    Edward Wymer, I don’t disagree at all but, my concept of “customer”, I apologise, is not confined to the consumer who buys the final garment. There are many customers along the wool pipeline as you and I know. If one of these customers, for example a High Street retailer in one of our major Northern Hemisphere cities, says to their garment manufacture, “our business cannot afford to wake up one morning and find a public demonstration of people outside our store displaying placards’ that imply that the product on our shelves is sourced by inflicting cruelty on sheep, then Mr Garment Manufacturer unless you can guarantee that all you product is made from wool from non-mulesed sheep, then the risk to our business is too great. The result is a market lost — even if as you say not one shopper otherwise would know what the issue is all about. You are quiet correct Edward, most retail consumers do not know anything about this issue.
    What the modern retail customer wants is a garment that satisfies their desires at a price to which they see value. Of course ‘value’ has a wide interpretation. For clothing, as for everything else in our consumer society, there is a wide discrepancy between different socio-economic groups and what they see as value. However, the premium is always at the luxury end and that is were our focus should be. And remember if the retailer dose not give our product shelf space, then a retail sale is impossible. In the modern world, our industry must listen to all our customers along the total pipeline; particularly the retailer. Unfortunately, it would appear that AWI in this instance is either deaf in both ears or extraordinarily arrogant.

  2. Edward Wymer., October 3, 2016

    Yes, Peter Small, I can agree with everything you say until your comment gets to the ” customer “. There would not be one customer in a 100 in Main st Australia who would know what mulesing was — one in a 1000 overseas. The employees in a scour in Japan we visited wouldn’t know or care. Talking of confusion not being very good for wool. Do you remember the November 2010 headline, ‘Carbon-neutral wool is in the minds of Japanese consumers’? A Mr Aoyama told us that one kilogram of clean wool has generated 53 kg of Carbon emissions. The bulltish never ends. As Steve Jobs said, ” The customers don’t know what they want till we show them”.

  3. Peter Small, October 2, 2016

    No, Edward Wymer, with respect, the point is that had AWI provided the necessary leadership this whole matter would have been resolved years ago. What we are doing as an industry through lack of leadership, is giving others oxygen to fill the vacuum that we have created; thus the baloney of Textile Exchange, the Dumfries Declaration and then the forthcoming Biella meeting on mulesing. These ongoing sagas create confusion. Confusion is not good for any market and certainly not for wool. A key factor of success in any market and particularly a luxury market, is to listen to the customer. The Australian wool industry should have got its house in order on this matter years ago. No one will ever know the cost; orders are just lost through our inability to give the customer what they want.

  4. Michael Craig, October 1, 2016

    Market forces @ work. Now let’s see if the trade can break the catalogue up between unmulesed, mulesed with pain relief and the rest undeclared. Perhaps if RWS gains enough traction then a separate sections of the catalogue as well. Separating the catelogue will make it clear who is buying what and send clear market signals. Also it will minimise the possibility of fake certifications.

  5. Edward Wymer., September 30, 2016

    I would not criticise Australian Wool Innovation for not endorsing Textile Exchange, with their Responsible Wool Standard. The whole idea obviously comes from the advertising industry, which is notoriously all lies and exaggerations in everything thing they do. It is all just another stunt in the scare campaign to keep raw wool prices down. All wool growers should definitely provide the RWS as requested, it cannot lower prices received and is not designed to improve them either. After all, there is not a person in the world who can tell wool from a mulesed or unmulesed sheep, once it is off the sheep. All this rubbish about customers demanding wool from unmulesed sheep is advertising bulltish.

  6. Peter Small, September 30, 2016

    AWI’s ‘head in the sand’ policy is delivering the dividend it sought — irrelevance. One day Australian wool growers will wake up to what a “furphy” this outfit is and vote AWI into irrelevance. Growers will then certainly spend the 2 percent tax on their hard-earnt gross income more wisely than AWI.
    It is time our industry focused on commercial realities and dumped the wool politicians forever. They have never done anything for our industry and they never will.

  7. Don Hamblin, September 30, 2016

    All these press releases, about the voluntary RWS, fail to mention the cost to the wool grower, for the annual on-farm audits in order to maintain their certification. On-farm auditing is very expensive; just ask Ausmeat about NLIS random auditing, or AWEX about the random auditing of the National Wool Declarations. Both Ausmeat and AWEX only audit a small number of randomly-selected farms because of the cost.

  8. Chick Olsson, September 29, 2016

    How embarrassed must AWI be to refuse to be part of this market development?

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