Wool Lifestyle

Our New Zealand wool has impeccable attributes. The integrity of the fibre is outstanding with a lot of effort being poured into its credentials as a truly sustainable material.

None of this matters if we forget to mention how wonderful it is to experience life with wool in your habitat.

Our wool is life enhancing. Wool is a fibre evolved by nature over centuries to provide warmth and safety. It does not melt. Wool won’t attract oily stains like some synthetic fibre.  Wool can breathe and moderate humidity making it great for asthma sufferers. Wool absorbs noise unlike hard floors. Manufactured right 100% wool products will outlast other materials and keep looking good for a very long time.

But what really matters is that wool feels lovely.

People aspire to luxury, and people like to feel good about their investments.  We have the fibre that delivers a luxurious and responsible lifestyle.

anika

 

Forensic Integrity

It is the start of 2016 so I predict ever increasing scrutiny of supply chains to ensure that social and environmental values are not compromised in the supply of products and services to consumers, wherever they are and wherever stuff originates.

Starting with the luxury brands, as always, there is a growing demand for complete transparency. We are going to see more labels asking for trust and we are going to see more activist shooting down the tall poppies.

Several years ago we started Laneve, working with a few trusted partners to provide wool carpets and textiles from managed and transparent value chains. At the time we thought transparency was key, but really transparency is just a tool that proves integrity.

As we move beyond a few partners wanting to build trusted brands to a world that must have trust, thanks Volkswagen for making this point loud and clear, we now need to move beyond paper trails and use science to back up claims on origin, provenance and therfor integrity.

Wools of New Zealand have partnered with Oritain to scientifically verify that the products made from our wool have not been tampered with or dumbed down.

This video says it best..

Oritain with Wools of NZ – Fine Cut (1) from Mathew Bartlerr on Vimeo.

Travel New Zealand - Sheep Farm

Flock of sheep, New Zealand.

The Perils of Fast Fashion in Interiors

Interior fashion cycles are getting faster with the gap between the catwalk and interiors stores getting shorter all the time.  Associating interiors brands with celebrity and high fashion can be good if this lifts the perceived value of an item, which is then treasured for its aesthetic and its quality.  The manufacture of heirloom pieces is great for building long-term robust and sustainable value chains.  When true craftsmanship is rewarded and quality materials are sought after then the people that grow fibre, sew garments and weave carpets and fabrics all can share the rewards.

It all falls apart however if we follow the fast fashion business model. If textile mills and retail outlets focus on fast turn-around of low quality items from non-sustainable value chains we end up creating waste, using more energy than is required and supporting the throw-away society.

It is better to create beautiful textiles from sustainable materials and to build them well so they last a long time, rather than to manufacture oil based products with the promise to recycle them one day.

The fast fashion culture encourages corners to be cut and lives to be endangered, think Rana Plaza.   This is not just an apparel issue.  There are carpet schemes that guarantee no child labour, but do not take care of the children that are banished from the rug mills.  Those children sometimes move to more dangerous factories.  No we don’t want six year olds making our carpets, we want them in schools paid for by the sale of carpets.

There are rug retailers that push so hard on price that the weavers are forced to use extremely low quality materials and pay very poor wages.  Eliminating unnecessary waste and reproduction is the best thing we can do for the planet and for the people that live here.  Buying something cheap with the aim of throwing it away is the worst legacy we can leave behind.

Children removed from rug factories are often just moved on to other industries.

Children removed from rug factories are often just moved on to other industries.

Wool Reputable

“Integrity trust and transparency are the core values that create long lasting partnerships.” That’s part of a tweet paying tribute to our very valuable relationship we have with the Society of British International Design or SBID.

It was a reply to a quote by Prince William “One thing that I think we all value about New Zealand is the integrity of its institutions”

You cannot under-value integrity, and it is getting more valuable. The interior designers that we are working with are curious about where things come from and who made them. The story of the product is almost as important as form and function.

Trust comes from acting with integrity, consistently over time.   Once word gets out you have a reputation and that leads to new business opportunities.

Earn your reputation by being reputable; build a product with a real story.

Integrity and happy sheep

Happy SheepNew Zealand has a reputation for producing clean white soft lovely wool.  Recently via Facebook someone asked “Yeah that’s all OK but how do you treat the sheep?”

I think this was a fair question, although it did get some social media responses as it was read as a little insightful by some.

The short answer of course is “Really well” Our farmers want their animals to be healthy and happy.  They sign up to a wool growing integrity programme with important rules on the environment, social responsibility and Animal Welfare.

Our animal health and welfare manual has firm objectives to ensure that our wooly friends are provided with five basic freedoms.

1. Proper and sufficient food and water.

2. Adequate shelter.

3. The opportunity to display normal patterns of behavior.

4. Physical handling in a way, which minimizes pain or distress to the animal.

5. Protection from and rapid response to any significant injury or disease.

Our wool growers are very aware that if carpet buying people have uninformed views on animal treatment it can put them off purchasing animal fibres.

The growers’ practices are externally verified through an audit process, which they gladly do in order to qualify for our Integrity programme.

Farmers tend to be animal lovers, they don’t want to see any animal suffer and they know that healthy happy sheep grow better wool.

Happy Sheep in New Zealand

Happy Sheep

Language

We are all experts at something, and we all have something to say.  Recently I was listening, for a change, and actually learnt something.  Well, I was reminded of something.

When you talk, speak in the language of your audience.  Wool people talk in textile terminology, which is fine if you talk to a weaver, but really dumb when you talk to a retailer.

When an IT consultant talks in jargon, do we trust her or wonder if we are going to be ripped off?   When a mechanic sucks air through his teeth and talks about machine parts we prepare ourselves for a shock.

I was listening to Jim Hanna of Starbucks recently and he could not emphasize enough how talking Business language to business people had made the difference in the internal battle to sell sustainability within Starbucks.

Talking about saving trees does not make an accountant happy, but talking about making more profit by improving staff retention, reducing energy costs and streamlining value chains – that’s gets the bean counters on board and the HR department and the store designers…

Language is too important to trust to the linguists.  Lets keep it simple and build some trust.

Jargon

image stolen form random internet site – sorry

CSR, Facial Hair and Wool

A very strong trend right now is CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and for a very small organisation of only 16 people, Wools of New Zealand does a lot in this area.   We put it all under the Wool for a Better World banner.

We do this stuff because it’s the right thing to do and because it gives our team of passionate people an element of pride to work for a socially minded company.

What I’m noticing is that everyone now has a CSR statement.  On the surface this is good, but I worry, jut slightly, that we are entering the next phase of green washing, or CSR-washing, as we may need to call it.

Are companies making a care statement because it is part of what they do, part of the culture of the organisation?  Or is the marketing department making a claim that has no real substance?

Green-washing became a marketing sin, and it looks like fake CSR claims might be next.

I’m really glad that quite a few of our partner companies are heavily into supporting their local communities and wider social and environmental issues.  A good cause often takes the focus away from business as usual and gets people working together, trusting each other and building partnerships that are good for business.

One of my friendly contacts reminded me about Movember so I decided to sacrifice my upper lip to help the campaign.  Now that I’m trotting about the UK sporting a fuzzy caterpillar on my face I’m getting a few sideways glances, but mostly I’m getting a pat on the back and smile from people who realise that its not an attempt to look like a Hawaiian private detective from the 80’s, its all for a good cause and a bit of fun.

Steven Parsons Movember

My hard to see Fuzzy Caterpillar

It is worth checking out Movember,  not only is it a fun way to raise awareness of men’s health issues, it a very well run digital marketing campaign and a brilliant example of the power of the internet to make things happen.

You can see my fuzzy caterpillar at my MoSpace here or click on my silly grin.