SHEEP meat and wool producers have worked with processors and their customers to produce the world-first Australian Sheep Sustainability Framework (SSF) with a set of metrics to track progress in key areas.
Sheep Producers Australia and WoolProducers Australia today launched the framework to a selection of industry people and media at Benangaroo Station near Jugiong, New South Wales.
The SSF was initiated by Australia’s sheep industry leaders to demonstrate Australia’s sustainable practices, identify areas for improvement, and better communicate with customers and consumers.
The framework lists 21 priorities across four themes – Caring for our Sheep; Enhancing the Environment and Climate; Looking after our People, our Customers and the Community; and Ensuring a Financially Resilient Industry.
The framework has been developed by an industry-led Sustainability Steering Group and follows a year of close consultation with industry stakeholders and the broader community.
Sheep Producers Australia chair, Chris Mirams, said there are significant opportunities available to Australia’s sheep industry as a result of the world’s growing interest and demand for sustainably produced food and fibre.
“Increasing access to markets and investment, building confidence in the integrity of sheep meat and wool products, enhancing community trust and better rewarding industry are some of the opportunities we have as a result of this growing consumer interest.
“The Australian Sheep Sustainability Framework has been designed and developed so our sheep industry can best harness these opportunities,” Mr Mirams said.
WoolProducers Australia president, Ed Storey, agreed, and said with consumer trends and demand, there was a real opportunity for Australia’s sheep industry to better articulate our sustainability story, with improved transparency a critical part of that success.
“To me, being transparent is the key to the Australian sheep industry seizing our opportunities and maximising the benefits.
“Having this industry-led Framework means that we will provide an open and honest picture of our high standards of practice and performance using the most appropriate and robust data available,” Mr Storey said.
Australian Sheep Sustainability Framework Steering Group chair and Holbrook wool and prime lamb producer, Professor Bruce Allworth, said that the industry acknowledges there are challenges linked to the many available opportunities.
“For the industry to seize these opportunities, we need to ensure we address challenges such as ensuring businesses are financially sustainable, avoiding land degradation and biodiversity loss, managing climate risk and water scarcity, meeting expectations on animal welfare, and protecting human rights in the global supply chain,” Professor Allworth said.
“Across the 21 priorities there are relevant indicators and metrics so we can measure and track industry performance year on year.
“This evidence base will help ensure continued access to markets and capital for Australian sheep businesses. It will also support continuous improvement across the industry.”
Professor Allworth said implementation for the framework will be addressed through a 3-year strategy with annual plans that will engage industry stakeholders and experts to tackle sustainability challenges for the industry.
“Constructive engagement via the formation of a Consultative Committee comprising industry and external stakeholders will ensure that we achieve our vision in the framework – that is sustainably producing the world’s best sheep meat and wool, now and into the future,” Professor Allworth said.
“Over the next year, the immediate plan is to capture baseline data for metrics that were not available at the time of the Framework launch.”
The Sheep Sustainability Framework will be a living document, subject to review and refinement so that it remains relevant and meets the expectations of all stakeholders. This ongoing commitment to transparency, continual improvement, and engagement will ensure the Australian sheep industry remains a strong and important industry for its participants and its customers.