What is the RWS?
The Responsible Wool Standard is an independent, voluntary standard. On farms, the certification ensures that sheep are treated with respect to their Five Freedoms and also ensures best practices in the management and protection of the land. Through the processing stages, certification ensures that wool from certified farms is properly identified and tracked.
What does Responsible Mean?
The intent and spirit of the standard is best reflected by one of Oxford Dictionary’s definitions of responsible: “morally accountable for one’s behaviour.” Not only farmers, but brands and supply chain members need to meet their obligations to respect the land and Five Freedoms of the animals that provide their wool, and to meet the trust of consumers that are choosing RWS products.
The goals of the Responsible Wool Standard are to provide the industry with a tool to recognize the best practices of farmers; ensuring that wool comes from farms with a progressive approach to managing their land, and from sheep that have been treated responsibly. The standard will create an industry benchmark to drive improvements in animal care and land management where needed and provide a robust chain of custody system from farm to final product so that consumers are confident that the wool in the products they choose is truly RWS.
How does the RWS work?
Farms participating in the RWS are audited annually by an independent third party certification body. As certified wool from these farms moves through the supply, the Textile Exchange Content Claim Standard is used to provide a chain of custody system to the final product. Each stage of production is certified to this standard by an accredited third party certification body.
History and development
In February 2014, H&M contacted Textile Exchange (TE) about addressing their wool supply. The decision was made to involve the full industry in the development of a global standard. The International Working Group (IWG) for the Responsible Wool Standard was born.
The IWG represents the broad spectrum of interested parties, including farmers, animal welfare groups, land conservation experts, supply chain members, industry associations, as well as apparel, home, and carpeting brands. TE facilitated the IWG, following ISEAL’s Code of Good Practice for sustainability standards. These methods ensure that all stakeholders have the opportunity to participate in the process of developing the standard.
The IWG spent time extensively researching existing animal welfare and land management standards sheep farms. Pilot audits of the draft standard were conducted in Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, China, South America, Austria, the UK and the US. Following the audits, two Public Stakeholder Review Periods were held in early 2016. Revisions were made based on the input, and the final standard was released in June 2016.