IWTO Congress Wool News – Sheep take sustainability to a new level

IWTO Congress Wool News – Sheep take sustainability to a new level

The message elaborated at the 83.IWTO Congress on April 29, 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa, is clear: The wool industry has an opportunity to do something quite incredible. According to grassland ecosystem pioneer and biologist Allan Savory, only a system of properly managed livestock will stop the desertification of our planet, a process that is taking place in most of the world’s land. More than 225 attendees were present, among from New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the U.K., and Uruguay

“Even if we all stop using fossil fuels, we cannot stop desertification, unless we use livestock, Savory told the audience of wool community leaders from around the globe. One delegate described the message as one of the most important moments in the industry.

Most of those present were not aware of Savory’s work, it comes at a time when a number of woolgrowers are diversifying farms due to a sustained period of low wool prices. With global wool production generally acknowledged to be in decline, his message comes as a further wake-up call to an industry that is working hard to demonstrate the natural benefits, technical properties and overall positive environmental credentials of their noble fibre.

Savory’s holistic system of managed grazing has proved successful in countries across the planet, including some of the most damaged grasslands in the world, such as Patagonia in Argentina. Natalie Dudinszky, Sustainable Grazing Coordinator in the Patagonian region, where holistic land management is being implemented, with impressive results, through a partnership between The Nature Conservancy, Argentine rancher network Ovis XXI and Patagonia Inc. The Merino wool produced under these sustainable grazing practices – Grassland Regeneration and Sustainability Standard, or GRASS, is bought by Patagonia Inc. for use in its performance base layer line. The direct traceability of the wool is a crucial advantage in the marketplace, where consumers increasingly demand information about provenance and environmental impact.

Dian Chang, renowned South Africa emphasised on the connection consumers feel to a brand when they understand the process behind the product.  He urged the delegates to remember that wherever they are in the supply chain they are connected with the ultimate user. “Consumers like it when their brands reflect their values, and he asked, how wool is playing it forward”

Sustainability, provenance, and “fibre accountability” were topics at the three days conference. IWTO President Peter Ackroyd, speaking in his capacity as COO of the Campaign for Wool, stated: “Wool ha clearly established its true environment credentials. We now need to take this message to the world of fashion, interiors and lifestyle.

Other sessions included a presentation on research into wool recycling by Pr. Stephen Russell of the University of Leeds (GB) and Dr. Paul Swan, General Manager Research at AWI, Australia. Further innovations were presented in sleepwear and extreme condition apparel made of wool was presented by Jo Dawson, CEO of H. Dawson (GB) and Trond Sleipnes, Marketing Director of Devold, Norway, respectively waste water management in the wool scouring processes by Pedro Otegui, Director of Lanas Trinidad, Uruguay; an overview of the new chlorine-free “Superwash” standard was highlighted by Kurt Haselwander, CEO of Schoeller Group, Austria. Last, but not least was the market intelligence session, featuring South African economist Dawie Roodt of Efficient Group.


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