Woolly warm welcome to our new staff members

All in on sustainability

The Schneider Group creates a Group-wide Sustainability Manager position

Willy Gallia - Sustainability Manager

Starting September 2019, Willy Gallia has joined the Schneider Group team as the Sustainability Manager. This newly created position is part of a wider Group strategy to push wool as a sustainable fibre while also continuously improving the existing supply chain from farm to top.

Giovanni Schneider explains: “Over the past couple of years we have invested into several key steps to offer our clients sustainable and traceable wool top. We are now seeing traction in demand for our sustainable approach, which made it the right moment to focus all of our efforts in the hiring of a Sustainability Manager.”

Part of the Schneider Group sustainability investment is the set up of the Authentico Integrity Scheme for wool in Australia and New Zealand as well as cashmere in Mongolia. Furthermore the company runs its own Organic and RWS certified sheep farms in Patagonia. With these two sourcing models, the company can ensure full traceability back to the farm.

Willy Gallia has been working for the Schneider Group since 2006 and brings relevant experience from his previous position as Commercial & Sustainability Manager at Fuhrmann Argentina, part of the Schneider Group based in Trelew. Together with the Fuhrmann team, Willy oversaw the alignment of the farm management, processing mill and commercial sector with the overall vision obtaining organic wool certification and Responsible Wool Standard. Just recently, Willy conducted a Life Cycle Assessment for the Fuhrmann Argentina operation and offset the emissions to offer the first carbon-neutral wool tops in the market, a project that will be extended to the whole Schneider Group.

Willy is based in the Verrone office in Biella, Italy and will be looking to work closely with suppliers, customers and third-party organisations to ensure a sustainable and traceable supply chain from farm to product.

Young Talent

Meet our new Junior Trader for the Italian Market

Sara Monteleone

Already some months ago, on 15 April 2019, Sara Monteleone joined The Schneider Group as Junior Trader assisting in servicing all Italian based clients. Sara is being mentored by Claudio Ceria to learn the specifics of the wool trade while also working closely as part of the Trading team with CEO Jeffrey Losekoot and Marco Spina.

Despite not having a wool textile background, Sara became passionate about wool right after touring the Verrone wool combing mill for the first time. ‘I was surprised about the huge world there is behind wool and speciality fibres. When I had my first tour in the mill I was especially impressed by the way the greasy wool arrives and then becomes tops and open tops after the combing process”, Sara remembers her first day at work. Since then Sara has become an expert in giving tours around the mill for visiting clients as it helps her better understand the product she is selling.

As a young person entering the wool trade, Sara is also very much motivated to be working for a company putting an emphasis on sustainability and traceability. Sara concludes that “these are two key points in order to not only be relevant in the global market but especially for saving our planet”.

Sara is yet another young team member joining the Schneider Group. CEO Jeffrey Losekoot explains: “For us, at the Schneider Group, it is important to continue developing our product, our service, and our skills for a sustainable future for wool and with wool. Having young motivated members join our team is an important step in the process and we are happy to welcome Sara Monteleone on board.”

Sara is also based in the Verrone office in Biella and is available to all Italian customers inquiries.

Introducing the Authentico Index Values and Authentico Indicator

With the opening of the new wool season 2019/20, the Schneider Group is launching its new Index Values. The new so-called Authentico Index Values and Authentico Indicator will better reflect the current market demands and supply chain requirements.

At the Schneider Group, we decided to review the Schneider Market Indicator in order to provide market information that is reflective of our business which is constantly evolving.

The Authentico Index values and the Authentico Indicator consider only wool from farms who no longer mules and those who meet our Authentico Quality Scheme standards. The average indicators are derived from good performing fleece wool but include not only the very best lots but also a range of good performing top-making types that reflect our full range of client requirements. These new values and indicator are different from the previous Schneider index’s which included wool types that are no longer relevant to our client requirements and weren’t specific with regards to the welfare, sustainability and quality.

Like any index, the Authentico indicators are derived from a pool of types and do not reflect any specific wool type.

We have changed to this new system because we now have sufficient grower supply and we are extremely pleased with the level of interest in our quality and traceability scheme. These new indicators are a result of this high level of interest in Authentico and the types included in the indexes are reflective of the demand from our clients.

We are pleased to launch the first range of indexes and an indicator which are based on the best land, environmental, animal and human resource practices with a strong focus on wool quality.

The new Authentico Index Values and Authentico Indicator will be published for the first time within the Australian Weekly Market Report on Thursday 22nd August 2019 and will be also published here.

The use of liquid nitrogen as an alternative to mulesing

On 19 July 2019, the Schneider Group team based in Biella welcomed veterinary John Steinfort to learn first hand about his new method using liquid nitrogen as an alternative to mulesing. Mr. Steinfort is the inventor and promoter of the new sheep welfare process called ‘Sheep Freeze Brand’. We used the opportunity to speak with Mr. Steinfort directly to better understand the benefits of sheep freeze branding and answer the questions the wool supply chain has concerning the new method.

Why is Sheep Freeze Brand relevant to the wool industry?

With increasing consumer interest in animal welfare, many fashion brands and retailers have adjusted their sourcing requirements accordingly. This has led to a higher demand for mulesing-free wool exceeding the availability, especially for Australian non-mulesed wool. The Australian wool industry is working intensively on fading out the need to mules sheep through extensive breeding programmes. As these genetic programmes take time, it is important to develop other animal welfare solutions to ensure good welfare for sheep. Liquid nitrogen is one of these important developments.

What is the liquid nitrogen sheep breech method?

The method using liquid nitrogen called Sheep Freeze Brand, is a welfare improved alternative to mulesing. The goal of sheep freeze brand is similar to mulesing where excess skin at the rear of the sheep needs to be removed in order to prevent flystrike. Sheep freeze brand is performed through stapling the excess skin on the back of the sheep using an applicator and performing a cryogenic treatment in the affected area using liquid nitrogen. The freezing of that tissue lasts a few seconds and deactivates all nerve cells within the skin area. This ensures that the animal does not suffer in any way. The wrinkles present in the treated area are naturally absorbed without any discomfort to the animal.

Who developed the liquid nitrogen method?

Sheep freeze brand was developed by veterinary John Steinfort. Mr. Steinfort developed the concept of Sheep Freeze Brand (SFB) in 2008, imitating the freeze branding on racehorses and cattle. The process has been constantly tested and evolved and is now ready for commercial use.

Is the use of liquid nitrogen less painful than mulesing?

The sheep freeze brand procedure takes about 8 seconds – 4 applications of 2 seconds each. The procedure is very fast, so the animal will feel discomfort for about 4 seconds (one second for each application). The pain can be compared to a short stinging similar to when a wart on a finger or toe is removed with liquid nitrogen after which the skin then feels numb. In 2018, the method has been already tested on 25.000 lambs, followed by further applications in 2019. Compared to mulesing, growers observed a faster recovery of the lambs after the procedure by showing normal behaviour.

Are there more benefits of sheep freeze brand?

Trials to date have shown the faster growth rate of the lambs. The lambs under the sheep freeze brand trial have shown the post-procedure weight of the lambs improved at the same rate compared to lambs which were not mulesed. This indicates that the lamb was not under any stress or pain during the procedure. Under a standard mules (without pain relief) lambs have always initially had a weight set back due to the pain.

There is also an environmental benefit over a standard non-mulesed (NM) sheep. NM sheep remain at risk of flystrike and growers can face the necessity to use more chemical on the sheep to fight the fly. This is costly to the grower but also has a negative impact on the environment.

Finally, with the wool removed from around the breach, it can be expected that the wool quality will improve by reducing the risk of stain or coloured fibre entering into the wool clip. Less wool around the breach means less stain in the wool.

When is the liquid nitrogen method carried out?

The best time to carry out the practice is when the animal is still a lamb, in conjunction with the procedure of tail docking and castration. In addition, the procedure can make tail docking no longer necessary.

What are the costs of the liquid nitrogen method?

The process of sheep freeze brand costs $AUS 5 per lamb which is a much higher cost for growers compared to $AUS 1.20 for mulesing. However, trials have shown in the past, that lambs who have been sheep freeze branded grow on average 9% more wool compared to mulesed lambs. In addition, sheep freeze branded wool can be declared as non-mulesed or ceased mulesed and therefore may obtain a premium at auction.

How is sheep freeze branded wool being declared in the catalogue?

The Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX) has defined that wool originating from sheep who have been sheep freeze branded can be declared as non-mulesed (NM) or ceased mulesed (CM). This is based on the fact that no surgical cut is being made during the sheep freeze brand procedure.

Has the liquid nitrogen method been included in animal welfare standards?

As the procedure has only been released to the market recently, animal welfare standards such as RWS and ZQ have not yet recognised the process within their standard. Dr. Steinford and his team will seek further discussions with the standard holders to ensure well-informed decision can be made on whether or not to accept the method as a good welfare practice.
At the same time, there might also be concerns expressed by other wool growing countries who have benefitted from being mulesing-free.

Is pain relief needed for the procedure?

The pain caused by the liquid nitrogen method is not excessive. Experts and wool growers involved in the trials came to the conclusion that pain relief was not needed. However, further research is being undertaken to also test the method in conjunction with pain relief.

How is the market accepting the new method?

Large wool industry organisations such as the Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX) and the International Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO) have accepted the method as a good alternative to mulesing and mulesing with pain relief to ensure good sheep welfare.
Brands and retailers who have their own animal welfare requirements are encouraged to study the new method and to read up on the available research. This will help to make an informed purchasing decision on whether or not to allow the sourcing of wool originating from sheep freeze branded lambs.

We hope you found this overview of the liquid nitrogen method useful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us. We will be happy to help.

 

Image source: Chantel McAllister

Report from the OutDoor fair 2019

On 30 June to 3 July 2019, the European Outdoor Group organised its international OutDoor fair together with the ISPO fair organizers. OutDoor by ISPO is the annual exhibition for brands selling products catered to hiking, trail running, climbing, water sports or camping. This year the fair registered 1.018 exhibitors from 35 countries and more than 22.000 visitors from around 90 different countries. OutDoor by ISPO is smaller compared to the International Sports and Outdoor fair held at the beginning of each year but has some overlap of brands. Therefore, the Outdoor fair also had a lot of wool on display, more specifically merino wool as next to skin garments.

Sustainability is a must

One topic that was permanent within the whole fair was sustainability which has been recognised as a “must have” for the outdoor industry. There were many podium discussions and exhibitions about sustainability, but also many brands showcased their products made of recycled materials or natural fibres.

Individual brands within the outdoor industry have been leading the sustainability discussion on a wide array of topics for a long time but the topic seems to have now hit the mainstream. The reason for the outdoor industry to actively engage in sustainability is to their point of view pure common sense. If the outdoor environment is no longer enjoyable due to pollution and climate change, consumers will no longer have the desire to spend their time outdoors and therefore have no need for outdoor products.

Wool education is key

During the 4-day fair, the European Outdoor Group also organised educational talks and time for discussion on various topics including a full-day forum on wool. Different representatives from across the wool industry were invited to provide the latest updates on wool. The goal of the session was to educate brand representatives from the outdoor sector about wool for them to make more informed purchasing and design decisions when it comes to wool.

Dalena White from the International Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO) for example spoke about the severe drought situation across various wool growing countries and Elisabeth van Delden provided details about the latest research on wool Life Cycle Assessment. Company representatives from The Schneider Group, Fox & Lillie, Chargeurs, Ovis 21 and The Südwolle Group discussed their approach to more sustainability, traceability and transparency within their supply chains.

Questions from the brands during the discussion were detailed and well-informed showing that brands are devoted to understanding the complex issues and finding solutions jointly together with the wool industry. Topics on top of the brand’s minds concerned animal welfare, traceability, microfibres, superwash treatments as well as low wool prices for coarse wools. The discussions felt sincere and highly engaged. Brand representatives seemed eager to communicate and collaborate with the wool industry on driving change rather than only demanding change.

Wool has an active and important role to play for outdoor brands to reach their sustainability goals and it continues to be vital to actively engage, inform, communicate the collaborate with this part of the textile industry.

Now available: Carbon Neutral Wool

Create your own Carbon Neutral Wool Products

As of May 2019, the Schneider Group is offering Carbon Neutral Wool Tops. These wool tops are made of Argentinian wool and are processed in our mill in Trelew. In addition to being carbon neutral, these wooltops can also be organic and RWS certified. Carbon Neutral Wool Tops offers our clients the possibility to develop their own carbon neutral yarns, fabrics and wool textile products.  

Knowing our impact

At the Schneider Group, our goal is to constantly improve our environmental impact and improve our own internal processes wherever possible. To achieve this goal, an important step was to measure our impact. In 2018, we undertook a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of our operation in Argentina where we have the unique setup of managing our own farms and running our own processing mill. The Life Cycle Assessment was conducted by the well-known wool LCA industry expert Stephen Wiedemann and his team from Integrity Ag & Environment. You can read all about our LCA study here.

Offsetting our impact

Once we fully understood our environmental impact in the areas of CO2 and methane emissions as well as water and energy use we were able to define projects on where and how to improve our farms as well as our mill. Some of these projects will take some time and investment over the next couple of years. In the meantime, however, we already wanted to be able to reduce our impact. Based on the LCA, we now knew exactly what our carbon emissions in our Fuhrmann Argentina operation were. This has led us to the idea to offset our carbon emissions by investing in a carbon-neutral project.

We have partnered up with Numerco, the industry leader in the field of carbon offset, and have invested in a carbon neutral project in Uruguay. With this investment, we can now offer our customers carbon neutral wool and help them achieve their own climate goals.

If you are interested in our climate neutral wool tops or want to work with us on our climate neutral wool project, then feel free to contact us any time.

Drought in Australia

Impacts of drought in Australia for the wool industry

At the Schneider Group, we believe that a close connection and regular exchange of ideas with wool producers is of mutual benefit to both sides of the wool business. In March 2019, a team of staff members from Europe and Australia traveled throughout Australia and New Zealand to meet with wool growers. As usual, we have learned a lot during this trip and wish to share some of the insights we have gained. In this blog post, we will talk about the dreadful drought castigating many Australian farms.

A severe drought in Australia for several seasons

Australia has been in the grip of a severe drought following the 2016/17 summer of record high temperatures and a record dry winter of 2017. The high temperatures and low rainfalls have led to severe drought across the eastern part of Australia, the exception being Tasmania.

Consequences on farm

As a consequence, wool growers had to adapt to the situation with several strategies in order to maintain a healthy flock and to continue operating their business. Many had a supply of supplementary feed ‘on hand’ as security for such events but the severity and longevity of this drought has proven very problematic. The financial strain of a long term supplementary feeding program has been crippling on many sheep and wool producers. The unfortunate consequence for the majority of growers was to reduce sheep numbers in their flock in order to care for their land assets and to maximize the health and productivity of their remaining flock.

We met with wool growers who have reduced sheep numbers by as much as 30% (total annual production in the state of NSW is down 20% year on year). Having to reduce sheep numbers has, of course, a long term effect on wool production and future income but still is a necessary step to take for the wellbeing of the animals.

The other step many growers had to undertake was feeding sheep with hay and grain, wherever paddocks were running too dry for grass and shrubs to grow. When we visited growers during our trip, we learned that many growers have been feeding their sheep for over 18 months. This necessity has of course also a huge financial impact for the grower’s business as prices for hay and grain have more than doubled. One grower explained that feeding one sheep for one week costs him around 3 AUS$, a cost that accumulates quickly over a long period of time as the drought continues. Water resources were also reportedly of concern but some welcome rain in recent weeks should help in this situation.

Consequences for wool

The drought not only has a huge impact on growers and their sheep but also affects the wool grown. The reduced nutrition for the sheep reduces the quality of the fibre they produce. The severe weather conditions impact the tenderness of the wool, making it more prone to break. Staple strength is an important qualitative characteristic of wool during the combing, spinning and weaving process. Meeting with wool growers across the country, gave us the opportunity to jointly discuss this challenge. One way to work with the increased tenderness is to start the shearing season earlier and therefore decrease the length of the fibre. This helps in managing the reduced staple strength during processing. Some growers also contemplated this to take advantage of the wool market to help finance the cost of feeding sheep. Others are shearing early before offloading excess stock as they head to another tough winter.

With very dry surfaces for the sheep to graze on, the wool also accumulates more dust within the fleece. For top makers, this is another challenge to manage during the scouring process. Processing costs relating to more regular cleaning of the water and the scour bowls add to the processing expense. As such topmakers generally have higher processing charges for lower yielding wools. The process of scouring is very important and the cleanliness of the wool tops for the spinner is also a major requirement.

Consequences for wool industry

With reduced sheep numbers, wool production has already decreased and is forecast to go down even further. For some micron ranges (20.0 / 23.0) the available kg of wool is down by 25% to 40% while there has been an increase in drought-affected fine wool to the end of April 2019. This has impacted on the market with finer micron prices falling while the medium and broader microns have been less affected. For more information on wool prices, see our weekly market reports.

With these low levels of supply, wool prices are expected to stay high. While high wool prices are difficult to hand down to the consumer markets, they are vital to keeping wool growers in business. The wool growers we talked to explained that all money received from wool sales gets directly reinvested into feed in order to keep the remaining sheep healthy and fit.

If you are interested to learn more about the Australian drought and its toll on the Australian wool industry, we recommend you watch the latest AWI video documenting the situation well.

The month of April and beginning of May have brought along some very welcomed rainfall. In the warmer and more arid regions, the rain allows grass to grow back. In colder areas of the country, temperatures are already too low for grass to grow. Sheep health conditions appear to be better compared to last year and wool growers remain committed to their sheep as they take good care for them through the winter. Of particular attention will be the ewes who will be expecting lambs in the spring – the future of the flock.

IWTO Congress 2019 Report

The discussion about sustainability is becoming more diverse

On 9-11 April 2019, the 88th IWTO Congress took place in Venice, Italy. Over 320 delegates attended the event representing the entire wool supply chain from all key wool growing and manufacturing countries.

Besides providing a great networking opportunity, the IWTO Congress offers a unique opportunity for learning about new industry developments and sharing views on key issues during presentations and panel discussions. In this report, we wish to share our summary of the event with you.

The event was opened by Eco-Age founder Livia Firth, a well known sustainable fashion evangelist married to actor Colin Firth. The Italian sustainability expert showcased her movie ‘Forever Tasmania’ where she talks to Wool Growers and researchers about animal welfare and sustainable production. Livia’s message to the wool industry was to continue to collaborate across the whole supply chain and to co-invest into research on sustainability. According to Ms. Firth, this was especially important as wool is a strategic key component in reducing fast fashion and minimising the related pollution of microplastic fibres in our oceans. ‘The time for wool is now’, Livia Firth concluded her message to the industry.

The sustainability message by Livia Firth was a returning theme throughout the 3-day event. However, presentations by various speakers such as Eco-Age Chief Brand Officer Harriet Vocking and industry expert Dr. Paul Swan showed that the sustainability discussion is maturing. While the topic used to circle around Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and animal welfare, the scope is broadening. Aspects such as traceability and transparency, working conditions, economic prosperity, circular economy, community, and social wellbeing were aspects discussed during the event as well.

Hugo Boss representative Heinz Zeller explained why transparency is a top priority for the fashion industry. Clothing manufacturers and retailers want to be in a position where they know exactly where and how each garment item has been produced.
The solution to a traceable supply chain favoured by the industry is blockchain, a technology already explored by various industry players such as AWEX and BKB. However, Mr. Zeller pointed out that a successful Blockchain solution can only be a global one which is jointly being developed by all supply chain partners involved, similar to the world wide web.

Another forum for interesting debate was the Market Intelligence Session organised by Chris Wilcox. Don MacDonald reported about the dreadful drought in Australia and showed the latest AWI video about the situation (click here to view). CEO Joe Farren of British Wool gave insights into the British coarse wool market and CEO Giovanni Schneider of the Schneider Group provided insights into the Italian wool manufacturing and fashion industry (watch Giovanni Schneider’s presentation here). A podium discussion with Chinese wool manufacturers and delegates in the audience followed the presentations. The debate about current high wool prices for fine wools showcased general support and understanding for wool growers and an expectancy for prices to even increase further.

The last Congress was hosted by the Benetton Group at their headquarters in Treviso. Here the main focus was on the topic of wool’s health and wellness benefits. NASA researcher Ms Orndorff reported about her search for finding the best fibre for astronauts to wear during their extended travel to Mars and beyond. After comparing a wide variety of fibres wool came out as a clear winner when it comes to comfort, odour and static.

The IWTO Congress ended with a visit to the Marzotto Group headquarters in Valdagno. Delegates were able to gain insights into one of the biggest users of fine wool and discover a long history of corporate social responsibility by one of the global leaders in the production of high-quality fabrics for men’s and women’s clothing.

Overall the Congress gave a good overview on current challenges and opportunities as well as the latest research results the industry is advancing on. The next IWTO Congress will be held on 18-20 May 2020 in Tongxiang, China.

Petition against Microplastic Fibres

Get involved to help protect our health and oceans from microplastic fibres

Giovanni Schneider, CEO of the Schneider Group, has launched a petition via the website Change.org to help reduce the threat of microplastic fibres.

The petition is addressed towards the Italian government to develop a law that helps make consumers aware of their usage of synthetic clothing and reduce the number of synthetic microfibers entering our water systems. Similar laws are already underway in California as well as New York. These laws foresee that clothes made of more than 50% synthetic fibres need to be clearly marked as being harmful to the environment due to the shedding of synthetic microfibres.

More and more research studies reveal the harm caused by synthetic clothes shedding microplastic fibres. These tiny plastic particles find their way into our rivers and oceans causing harm to marine life and then subsequently also to our own human health.

All garments made of natural and synthetic fibres shed microfibres during wear and washing. The difference is that natural fibres particles biodegrade while synthetic fibres do not. Research shows that synthetic microfibres accumulate in water and bind other toxic chemicals. Plankton and fish often absorb these microfibres and therefore these toxic particles end up in our food chain causing toxic harm.

The rise of fast fashion using cheaply produced synthetic fibres and being washed frequently is unsustainable and a threat to our health and our planet. Encouraging the production and use of clothes made of natural fibres such as cotton, silk and wool can contribute to a healthier future and will also add a positive economic impulse for the Italian textile industry.

We kindly invite you to sign the petition initiated by Giovanni Schneider to help move consumption into a sustainable direction. Click here.

 

Petition against Microplastic Fibres