Wool is a fantastic renewable material. It naturally resists smelly microbes and regulates temperature. It’s repeating renewable, but like any natural resource, it’s only sustainable if it’s managed in a way that looks after the animals and the land.
Kathmandu is part of the collaborative industry group developing the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS). RWS is a voluntary global standard that addresses the welfare of sheep and of the land they graze on. The international working group includes farmers, scientists, animal welfare groups as well as lots of global brands.
The working group spent time researching existing animal welfare and land management standards for sheep farms to come up with a standard for best practice for the industry.
Protecting animals and the land
The standard has two key areas. Protecting animal welfare means that the Five Freedoms of sheep are protected at all times.
Preserving land health means using progressive land management methods to protect soil health, biodiversity and native species.
Banning bad practice
The RWS specifically prohibits the practice of mulesing, which involves removing strips of skin from a sheep’s rear. Mulesing has been a common practice in Australia but has been phased out in New Zealand.
The Responsible Wool Standard launched in June 2016 as an independent, voluntary standard. From farm and right through production, certification ensures that wool for certified farms is properly identified and tracked.
The standard will create an industry benchmark to drive improvements in animal care and land management and provide traceability from farm to final product so that consumers can be confident that the wool in the products they choose is truly responsible.
Certified RWS range coming
Last year, Kathmandu initiated a pilot RWS programme. We visited suppliers and began working with our supply chain to get them ready for the launch of a RWS certified merino range in 2018.
Collaborating for bigger gains
Kathmandu Textile R&D and Responsible Materials Manager Manu Rastogi says the big gains come from working together. ‘It’s about combining quantities so it becomes economical for the whole supply chain. That opens up opportunities for other brands to be a part of it. We are leading the way in bringing this standard to the market.’
‘For me, it’s not just about looking at standards and adopting them, it’s about working to develop them for the whole industry,’ Rastogi says.