THE Australian wool industry and its partners have begun tracing the lifetime journey of authentic wool products, thanks to an initiative between the global pioneer in provenance technology, Everledger, and the not-for-profit body for the Australian wool industry, Australian Wool Innovation (AWI).
Everledger and AWI, which is also the parent organisation for The Woolmark Company, have completed the proof-of-concept stage.
Information has been captured along the wool supply chain to enable verifiable provenance and chain of custody using blockchain technology.
In line with AWI's strategic response to enabling material traceability, capturing the flow of wool information enables verifiable claims of origin and sustainability, supports biosecurity efforts and can deliver compliance and ESG reporting efficiencies.
This offers value to all parties, whether that is attracting new buyers or higher prices for growers, enabling verifiable information for certifiers and regulators, or giving apparel brands a robust point of difference with their finished garments.
AWI acting chief executive officer John Roberts said he was delighted that the project had materialised real industry examples of how this can be done, as well as generating insights from market participants about the value of these efforts.
"What is clear from this proof-of-concept is that there is demand across the value chain and by stakeholders for the wool industry to deliver on traceability and we look forward to advancing on the gains made here as well as the recommendations made in the recently Traceability in the Australian Wool and Sheep Industry report by WoolProducers Australia for the benefit of woolgrowers," Mr Roberts said.
Merino sheep are celebrated globally for producing the world's finest, softest and most beautiful wool.
Australia produces about 90 per cent of the world's fine apparel wool and this makes significant contributions to the Australian economy.
What is more, the fibre is natural, renewable and biodegradable.
Many Australian woolgrowers are able to demonstrate that their farms can sequester carbon, increase biodiversity and strengthen climate resilience - but many of these important messages aren't making it to market, or if they are, lack the substantiation to make the claims credible.
APG & Co, which has a portfolio of well-known Australian brands including Sportscraft, SABA and JAG, was a POC participant.
APG & Co 2 social and environmental manager Genevieve Moody said the need for a fully traceable apparel supply chains was of paramount importance not just for their business but for their customers as well.
"Due to the complexity of supply chain tracing, it was great to work directly with Australian Wool Innovation and Everledger to see genuine traceability improvements," Ms Moody said.
"Being a part of the POC has not only allowed us access to a fit-for-purpose tracing solution, it has also provided the opportunity to discuss ethical and sustainability data collection points we would want to have integrated in future.
"It has been enlightening to be involved in the development of the tool, which can guarantee the authenticity and reputation of our claims.
"We look forward to continuing our engagement as this work matures into an industry solution."
The proof-of-concept involved seven distinct supply chains tracing from woolgrowers, through brokers and export, to scouring, combing, spinning and dyeing, to weaving or knitting and the final product.
It worked closely with all parties in those supply chains, as well as end-consumer brands, to understand the nature of business processes, the data available, and the types of claims different parties wished to make.
Key to the success was establishing a prototype tool that enables upstream or downstream supply chain participants to invite associated parties, helping to navigate supply chain opacity in a trustworthy manner.
The information supplied was grounded in blockchain, offering immutable records authored by each party to be stitched together to create a full picture.
The solution enables retailers or end consumers to be able to verify where and when the original wool was produced, and key stages in its journey to market.
"We love working with visionary partners," said Everledger chief executive officer Leanne Kemp.
"Traceability used to be considered a nice-to-have, now in multiple supply chains and across many material types, it is essential."
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