Stepping Up on Sustainability

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IWTO intensifies engagement with ratings agencies, releases revisions to IWTO Specifications for Wool Sheep Welfare

In response to reports that ratings organisations aim to introduce retail branding of apparel at point of sale by 2020, IWTO’s Sustainable Practice Working Group is stepping up its ongoing efforts to provide the science to support a fair rating for wool – and to get the ratings agencies to apply it.

In order for wool’s rating to improve the industry must supply proof in the form of peer reviewed science and timely, accurate data.

But this work has been challenging, in part because the agencies have in the past not been open about the data behind their ratings.

“Ratings agencies have historically been a closed shop to us,” reported SPWG Vice Chair Angus Ireland (AWI) to the Working Group meeting on 21 February. “They were unwilling to share the studies they relied upon to rate wool, and we had to second guess them.”

Fortunately, agencies like SAC and Made-By are gradually becoming more transparent and the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for Wool LCA is gaining better insight into where upcoming research needs to focus.

In its next phase of work, the TAG will address eutrophication (the release of nutrients into waterways), and will address supply chain data gaps as well as the use of pesticides in wool production.

SAC give heavy weighting to eutrophication in its farm stage rating, whilst Made-By give heavy weighting to toxicity and we believe their rating for wool is based on studies that include pesticides that have long since been banned and are no longer in use, Angus Ireland explained.

IWTO Specifications for Wool Sheep Welfare Released

A revision of the IWTO Guidelines for Wool Sheep Welfare, the IWTO Specifications provide a concise guide to best practice principles for wool sheep welfare.

The revised document includes the animal welfare laws and regulations of each of the main wool growing countries, a description of the legislative frameworks governing wool production, and an overview of the global wool sheep industry.

These Specifications were developed by the wool growing country members of IWTO and reflect the diversity of wool production systems around the world.

This resource is freely available to view, share and download from the IWTO website at

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