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

New Team Members in GSchneider Sydney Office

In early 2017, the two young professionals, Charlie Toll and James Nadin, joined the GSchneider wool buying team in Sydney. Having settled in well into the job, we want to take a closer look at their experience and impressions of the last two years working within the Schneider Group.

ISPO 2019 Report

From 03-06 February 2019, the ISPO fair took place once again in snowed-in Munich, Germany. The International Sports and Outdoor fair had a total of 2.943 exhibitors showcasing their goods to around 80.000 visitors from 120 countries who attended the fair.