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CALIFORNIA – US outdoor brand, Patagonia, has announced that all its key wool partners will now have to meet its own stringent internal standards for wool production. The standards are contained in the Patagonia Wool Standards (PWS) which includes additional animal welfare requirements beyond Textile Exchange’s Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), relating to on-land transportation and off-farm slaughter.

Patagonia made the announcement as it updated its wool sourcing strategy, which had ground to a halt in 2015 after the business stopped buying wool from the Ovis 21 network of farms in Argentina after animal rights activists released videos of workers there slashing and stabbing lambs with knives. At that time, Patagonia said it had taken a decision to put a pause on its wool sourcing, “until we can assure our customers of a verifiable process that ensures the humane treatment of animals.”

In an update, the company said in a note that as of fall 2018, all the wool in its products would be certified to the RWS. In addition, key wool partners will also need to have met the even more stringent requirements outlined in the PWS.

Patagonia suggested that supply chain traceability and finding “like-minded farmers” have been key challenges along the way. The company said: “For the majority of wool sourcing brands, even mapping their wool to the farm is practically impossible due to the number of consolidators, agents and traders that are a feature of the global wool market. Through our diligence we were fortunate to find wool suppliers who were willing to provide us visibility to their farms, and also guarantee the traceability of our wool through the supply chain.

“One of the biggest challenges was finding suppliers who were willing to start this journey with us and accept our requirements for wool, not only in quality but also in animal welfare and land management. Our Patagonia Wool Standard is the hardest to meet; this is due to the fact that two of our additional requirements involve processes that take place after the animals are sold by the farmer (when they are transported to the slaughterhouse, and the conditions in the actual slaughterhouse).

“This means the farmer has to obtain information on transportation and slaughter from their customers to whom the animals are sold. Keep in mind that the vast majority of the value of the animals is in their meat, not their wool, thus the meat customers have more leverage than we do as an apparel brand. Having said this, we were able to find great farmers who truly believe that this was possible and wanted to be part of the forward movement to become part of our preferred supplier pool.”

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