Life Cycle Assessment at The Schneider Group

How to define and create a Sustainable Wool Business?

As society is combatting climate change, businesses around the world are contributing through the development and implementation of their own sustainability strategies. Unfortunately, sustainability is a very broad word, surrounded by subjectivity in most cases. At The Schneider Group, we didn’t want to be trivial about it so we searched for facts and figures. The first step in this long journey is to know where we stand in order to know where we need to go and what steps we need to take in order to get there.

Establishing what is through Life Cycle Assessment

To find our starting point, we decided to perform a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for our production, and our wool top. This led to measuring the impact of all our six mills – 4 wool and 2 cashmere mills – as well as the farming stage. Within the LCA we focused on the four most relevant indicators for our operations: energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, water stewardship, and land occupation.

Starting point: 750.000 tonnes of CO2e

In a nutshell, the biggest issue is that for all the wool tops we produce each year as a Group, we emit in the order of 750.000 tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent). Out of this, roughly 35.000 tonnes are from transporting the wool to our mills and processing it; whilst 715.000 tonnes are allocated to the wool production. Yes, amazingly 4,6% of the impact of GHG (greenhouse gases) is for industry and 95,4% for farming. To put things into perspective, according to recent studies from the EU the yearly emission per capita is 4,97 tonnes of CO2e. So The Schneider Group’s processing would equate to a town the size of Kawerau, Huntly or Portland (roughly 7.000 inhabitants); whereas the emissions allocated to the production of the greasy wool consumed by the group on yearly basis would be Geelong or Tauranga (roughly 143.000 inhabitants) in comparison.

Need for accurate methodologies

Based on ongoing wool LCA research by the IWTO, the methodologies of how on-farm impacts are calculated are inaccurate.  We are therefore actively supporting various industry bodies such as the IWTO Sustainable Practices Working Group, UNFCCC, UNECE, and others – to correct these wrong calculations before the laws are made regarding emissions. We believe climate change is the next big frontier we will have to tackle as an industry. It is up to us to let it become a risk factor to our businesses or to turn this into an opportunity for all. We are absolutely sure that growers will be innovating to bring the answers to the table and we will take them to all the stakeholders, including big brands. Proactivity will be key and at The Schneider Group we will start proposing initiatives in the near future around this particular topic.

We are aware that the wool industry already has had a slow start around this subject. The result of this slow start can be seen by looking at the current impact assessment methodology rating farming negatively. However, we have the determination and above all, the conviction that wool and farming is here to save the world. We need to start sitting at the table so we can stop being on the menu.

Read more about sustainability at The Schneider Group here.