As demand for traceable and transparent products continues to grow, the wool industry is being encouraged to find a way to unite all of its accreditation schemes.
Many in the supply chain believe the myriad of accreditation schemes currently in the global market have created a "certification dilemma" for the wool industry.
Marta Maniero is the marketing and communications manager at Marzotto Wool - one of the largest wool weavers in Europe which sells 20,000 kilometres of fabric each year - and she believes the abundance of accreditation schemes in the world is "busy and complex" and creates "unnecessary confusion in the market".
"It seems new ones are coming out everyday, and this represents a challenge for us and the entire supply chain," Ms Maniero said.
"For farmers, it increases their compliance duty and farming costs.
"For brands, it creates a lot of confusion for them and their consumers.
"And for mills like us it increases our inventory as we need to have multiple types of wool in stock."
She called on the industry to come together to agree on a common certification for the sourcing of wool.
"This will reduce market confusion, give us the ability to communicate strongly to our customers, and above all else, create a clear market standard," she said.
She believed this was urgent as she didn't see consumer demand changing anytime soon.
"According to our research, we discovered that less than 20 per cent of greasy wool produced in the world is certified," she said.
"And within that 20pc, the figure drops to between 5-10pc for certified wool used for luxury products, so up to 21.5-micron wool.
"The countries where we can source accredited wool in order of production are South Africa, South America, and then New Zealand and Australia.
"For this reason, fabric producers are starting to purchase raw material more from South America and South Africa, not because of the quality of the wool but because in these countries, the fibre is certified."
Michel Mastio works for the Sudwolle Group in Germany, where they spin yarn predominantly out of Merino wool for use in weaving, sweaters and socks, and he believed the process of buying wool had got a lot more complicated in recent years as more and more certification schemes were launched.
"The yarn business of the past was fairly easy, we produced the yarn, had contact with spinners, weavers, knitters and maybe a few brands, but very little, and there weren't too many standards or certifications you had to comply with," Mr Mastio said.
"Back in 1995, we entered our first supply chain and today we have more than 70 active supply chains and that's without the Responsible Wool Standard and the Global Organic Textile Standard schemes which would add another 300 customers, so it's very complex."
He said they weren't selling yarn or fibre anymore, they were selling a service and a story.
"Transparency and traceability for sure will become more and more important," he said.
"We have discussions and get requests everyday so we will definitely see more supply chains going forward, which will increase the complexity we're already experiencing.
"With all the certifications, they're all so similar and there is not one unified standard so it makes it very difficult."
- 185 fashion brands come out against mulesing
- Calls to scrap WoolQ and AWI's agri-political group funding
- Has the wool market finally hit its bottom?
Australian Wool Exchange's SustainaWOOL program manager Paul Swan said the International Wool Textile Organisation's Sustainable Practices Working Group was currently working towards creating a united system.
Mr Swan said rather than implementing one single accreditation scheme, the group was looking at creating a system that could translate one standard to the next.
He encouraged all members of the supply chain to support the process.
"This is a process that could lead to a harmonised industry-owned standard which wouldn't overtake the other standards but could act as a Rosetta Stone, which could readily translate one standard to the other to unify them," he said.
He believed the duplication of current schemes resulted in additional costs for wool growers.
"There's a healthy, growing market in sustainability integrity schemes, and growers around the world are confronted with the opportunity to take part in multiple, overlapping schemes," he said.
"Now the issue I'd raise with this is the cost for wool growers; we have some members who take part in four different schemes, and that's not including their meat industry auditing.
"The costs and time associated with those can be enormous; surely some of those duplicated costs could be better invested back on the farm.
"$1000 saved each year could build 150 metres of fencing or plant hundreds of shrubs of Eucalyptus trees or buy feed for sheep in containment yards when there's a drought."
Start the day with all the big news in agriculture. Sign up here to receive our daily Farmonline newsletter.
The story Wool industry called on to unite its integrity schemes first appeared on Farm Online.