It is very difficult to predict how much an individual certification will cost. The Certification Body performing the audit and granting the certificate determines the price of RWS certification. There are several factors that determine the cost: country, travel required by the auditor, overall time spent auditing, and the size and scope of the farm. The best way for a farm to lower the cost of the audit is to be well prepared for the audit ahead of time so that it is done quickly and successfully the first time.
For farms that are certified as a group, the same factors will affect the cost of certification, but those costs are distributed across the member farms. Not all farms will be physically audited. The manager of the Internal Control System can significantly reduce the costs by ensuring that there is strong oversight throughout the year, and that all member farms understand the standard, and what will happen during the audit.
The standard aims to ensure that sheep have their five basic freedoms being met at all times:
- Freedom from Hunger and Thirst
- Freedom from Discomfort
- Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease
- Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour
- Freedom from Fear and Distress
By ensuring that the criteria are written to cover the range of basic to advanced animal welfare issues, we can be confident that all aspects of animal welfare are thoroughly and consistently met in every region of the world.
A credible standard is one that is written in a way that reduces the amount of interpretation required by the auditor conducting the audit.
The sub-requirements serve the purpose of specifying in further details the key factors that will enable the auditor to objectively verify that appropriate methods are being used, and thus ensure the main requirement is being met.
Yes. As explained above, the standard aims to ensure that all of the five basic freedoms are being met. A strong, credible standard will create more value to both the producers and end users. In order to protect the reputation of the RWS as a strong animal welfare standard, it is important for all criteria to be met in order to grant certification.
When non-conformities are found, the farmer will be given a “path to compliance”. With the exception of serious violations of animal welfare, non-conformities will not result in a loss of certification; the farmer will be given 30-90 days correct the issues.
As a global standard developed to be applied across a range of production systems, not all requirements are applicable to all farms. For example, the section on Housing will only apply to those production systems where sheep are routinely housed for part of the year.
It is possible that a situation will arise in which a farmer meets the goals of the standard, but does not conform to a specific requirement of the standard. In this situation, the Certification Body may grant a “derogation” which means the certificate is issued without the requirement being met. Derogations are granted on a case-by-case basis..
In these cases, the Certification Body will submit the audit report to Textile Exchange, along with the description of the derogation, the reason for the derogation, and the amount of time allowed for the derogation. Textile Exchange will make the final decision of whether or not the derogation is allowed.
This requirement ensures that farmers are weighing the decision to tail dock or castrate against the best possible welfare for the animals. In some cases, the practices will improve the overall welfare of the animal, but this may not always be the case. In some areas, the risk of disease or injury to the animal is so small that it is not worth the practice. In some regions, there may be advancements that allow these practices to be avoided.
Legislations in many countries are very strong but as mentioned above, other countries are only now becoming aware of the need to protect animals in industry on a national level. Our extensive research found that while many existing legislations were strong, they were strong in different areas. In other countries, there may be no legislation at all. The application of existing standards is even more varied. There is no reliable way to know how the existing legislation is being enforced across different countries and even regions within the same country.
For brands and consumers that want to know about the welfare of the animals behind their clothes, the tangled web of country legislation makes it very difficult to confidently source or buy materials with strong animal welfare principles. The RWS aims to untangle the web by consistently applying strong baseline animal welfare and land management verification across the world.
A standard that relies on annual third party audits is a very strong tool, but should not be considered a guarantee against any animal welfare or land health issues. Auditors are generally present on the farm for only one or two days out of the year so cannot see everything.
The RWS delivers clear expectations to farms, and certification creates a strong incentive to continue with best practices and to improve in any areas that may warrant it. The RWS has put a special focus on providing tools and resources for farmers to help make compliance with the standard part of their practice.
Animal rights activist groups will likely continue to look for targets for their campaigns. There is the risk that they may look for – and find – isolated instances of animal cruelty on farms certified to the RWS. As mentioned above, certification is granted based from the perspective of brief period of time spent on a farm out of a year. If an issue is found, Textile Exchange and the certification body will immediately investigate and respond appropriately.
We acknowledge that the RWS cannot prevent all issues, but it is a powerful tool to clearly communicate expectations in animal welfare. The standard has built-in consequences for not meeting the requirements; certification is revoked and farms found with serious animal welfare violations may not be eligible to apply again for a year or more. The standard – both criteria and assessment methodology – will be continually reviewed and improved over time. Information and feedback are continually collected and a stakeholder revision will take place at least every three years.
Textile Exchange is a willing partner in responding to these issues as they arise. We are proud of the standard, confident in the open and transparent development process, and will work alongside you to ensure the standard holds up to its promises.
Wool is a very important fiber in the textile industry. There are no synthetic equivalents available today that provide the same feel and technical capabilities of wool, and as a natural fiber wool offers many environmental benefits over oil-based fibers. The wool industry involves thousands of people from all parts of the world: large industrial farmers, small rural pastoral communities, supply chain facilitators, textile factories, brands, retailers, and consumers. It is not a switch that can just be turned off.
The vast majority of farms around the world raise sheep in a happy and protected environment, respecting the welfare of the animals and the health of the land. The RWS is a meaningful tool to allow these farmers to continue their best practices and provide brands and consumers with wool without compromises, and to give consumers confidence in the source of the products they buy.