Wool sustainability set to bring investment

Terry Sim, May 16, 2022

Zegna Group chairman Paolo Zegna.

A STRONGER commitment to excellence and sustainability would lead to more brands considering direct investment in superfine wool-growing farms, Australian growers were told at the weekend.

At the Australian Superfine Wool Growers Association 50th anniversary dinner, Paolo Zegna, chairman of the Italian luxury fashion house Ermenegildo Zegna said his was the first woollen mill in the world to specifically indicate the name and origin of its raw material by weaving the title ‘Superfine Australian Wool’ into the selvedge of its fabrics.

“This was a big step on the path to building awareness in the origin and quality of the wool, promoting it an ensuring it took its place above all the other wools in the world.”

At the earlier Zegna awards presentation, Mr Zegna told growers he considered them the Formula One of the wool world and he encouraged a continued focus on quality.

In his dinner speech, Mr Zegna highlighted the work of his company and the association in producing and promoting the highest quality Australian wool while respecting sustainability and responsible development of sheep breeding.

He said there are several aspects “in this context” of fundamental importance to the company, including regenerative agriculture and carbon sequestration, that will become increasingly relevant as European and US legislation on reporting head of chain greenhouse gas emissions get tighter.

Mr Zegna said Zegna’s aim in this area has always been clear, after the company’s investment in a New England region farm in New South Wales led to it becoming directly engaged in Merino flock breeding.

He said this enabled the company to better understand the problems of all Australian farmers. This included the need to aim for a market price level that compensates all the efforts that every farmer has to put in order to maintain its production standards even through drought and natural disasters, and raising awareness to promote an increasing focus on all aspects of animal welfare.

Mr Zegna said preference should be given to the farmers who over the last 50 years have increasingly improved and refined their work to control and manage sheep health, to monitor pasture  measure greenhouse emissions and absorption preventing the impacts of increasing climate change “as much as possible’

“But more needs now to be done.

“In his complex situation the pursuit of excellence has always kept its position as your core value and I wish to give you full credit for it,” he said.

Mr Zegna said the product the growers had developed will become recognised by the market and the highest quality animal fibre produced in compliance with sustainability criteria will become even more exclusive” and a premium will be paid, with greater recognition by international brands.

The company chairman said brands will no longer approach wool growers merely to purchase their fleece, but also with an interest in examining the possibility of purchasing credits for carbon absorption, for biodiversity defence, and in so doing, consider the possibility of directly investing in farms.

Mr Zegna urged the growers and the association to continue working together with the company and accept the responsibility for a brighter future built on achieving a new and challenging role of undisputed recognition from international consumers.

“We at the Zegna Group are convinced of this and will continue to work constructively alongside with you putting attention into innovation, creativity, into better marketing.”

He said the association will also have to do some internal work to ask itself what a more complete and deeper interpretation of the word ‘excellence’ means today.

“As the leader of wool in Australia and in the world you will have to be and received as the unattackable part of the business.”

In 2017, after surveying its members, the superfine wool growers association adopted a policy to encourage its members to always follow best practice in matters of animal welfare, with the ultimate aim of removing the need for mulesing.

The policy also included that ASWGA is a signatory to the Dumfries House Declaration and its members are adherents to the IWTO Specifications for Wool Sheep Welfare, and it recognised that ASWGA members raise their animals under a lot of different climatic conditions around Australia and decide their own animal husbandry procedures.

More than 70 percent of ASWGA members don’t mules their sheep. ASWGA president Mark Waters said the association is a collection of growers with a focus on breeding superfine Merino sheep, wool harvesting and preparation “as best we can.”

“We don’t interfere with how members run their places or what they do on their places, that’s an individual choice.

“As an association we just want to breed good wool, grow good wool and sell it for as much as we can get for it, that’s us.”


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