Merino wool: using blockchain to track Australia’s ‘miracle fibre’

BY PETER HUGHES

// Head of Australia & New Zealand

Peter Hughes, Head of Australia & New Zealand at Everledger, explains how a not-for-profit body for the Australian wool industry will use the Everledger Platform to create new sources of value for wool farmers, manufacturers and retailers.

Merino sheep are celebrated globally for producing the world’s finest, softest and most beautiful wool. Known as nature’s miracle fibre, merino wool also creates a much lower ecological footprint when compared to synthetic materials. Synonymous with Australia, which produces around 90 percent of the world’s fine apparel wool, the far-roaming flocks are a major export provider, contributing 3.6 billion Australian dollars to the national economy.

However, sharing this miracle with the rest of the world is no easy task. The voyage from rugged farm to high-class showroom – sheep to shop – takes many hands. Tending, processing, manufacturing, shipping, retailing, and then buying, re-selling and recycling: the life cycle of merino wool is a fascinating journey. To thrive in such a competitive global market for natural and also synthetic garments, Australian merino wool needs to actively protect its reputation for quality and authenticity as it travels further from its point of origin.

Enter Australian Wool Innovation (AWI). This organisation exists to protect the livelihoods of Australia’s 22,000 woolgrowers and the 70 million sheep they nurture, by “pushing the boundaries of what wool means to the world”. This includes promoting traceability of global supply chains so that all stakeholders and consumers understand the full value of their remarkable product.

Everledger is helping AWI to achieve its provenance goals. Our transparency platform, powered by blockchain technology, will track and validate the exchange of ownership of selected wools as they move up the supply chain from farm to overseas processing and through to finished products. Ultimately, a retailer or end consumer will have access to information that allows them to evidence how the original wool was sourced and processed throughout its journey.

Different participants at each stage of the supply chain will be able to connect through the Everledger Platform, a breakthrough for the apparel industry. Recorded evidence can be used to demonstrate compliance, while participants can also explore additional technologies to enhance material and chain of custody integrity. The aim is to demonstrate sustainability and compliance best practices, and provide more confidence on the authenticity and provenance of the product.

John Roberts, Chief Operations Officer at AWI, explained why his organisation has taken this step. “Our stakeholders have recently reflected on the growing importance of provenance, corporate social responsibility, and the perennial concerns regarding supply chain efficiency and biosecurity,” he said.

“Traceability and transparency are critical for safeguarding the global reputation of Australian wool. This partnership with Everledger will help us to ease the flow of information up and down the supply chain to all parties, and so communicate wool’s benefits to a wider audience. Ultimately, this is good news for our farmers and related small businesses that rely on these remarkable sheep to make a living.”

Merino wool is a gold standard Australian export, so we’re naturally delighted at Everledger to partner with such an important institution in the country and support it with state-of-the-art transparency. AWI’s values of transparent provenance, and fair social and environmental impact in fashion, are ideals we support wholeheartedly. It’s exciting to bridge these two worlds that on the surface seem to be so distant: wool production and technology, interwoven by transparency.

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