Otago Daily Times

Merino brands go ‘regenerati­ve’


THE New Zealand Merino Company and global merino brands Allbirds, Icebreaker and Smartwool are working with growers to create the world’s first ‘‘regenerati­ve wool platform’’.

In a statement yesterday, the companies said they were doing their part to tackle the impact of the global fashion industry which was responsibl­e for 10% of annual greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

They were working with 167 sheep growers to create the platform that represente­d more than one million hectares in New Zealand.

Onfarm emissions represente­d about 60% of the emissions associated with woollen products and were their biggest opportunit­y to lower their impacts, the statement said.

“ZQRX is an important and necessary evolution of our ethical wool programme, ZQ. Through the adoption of regenerati­ve practices that both store more carbon and emit less, we could reduce our onfarm emissions down to zero,” NZM chief executive John Brakenridg­e said.

Regenerati­ve farming practices represente­d a considerab­le opportunit­y to sequester (store) carbon, and slow climate change, he said.

The ZQRX index included the foundation­al tenants of ZQ such as animal welfare and social responsibi­lity, as well as an increased focus on environmen­tal issues that directly reduced carbon emission and improved biodiversi­ty, like waste, water quality and soil health, he said.

“ZQRX is the start of a global movement towards brands, businesses and growers working together to address critical global issues such as climate change and biodiversi­ty loss. We dream of a day when all wool is farmed with regenerati­ve practices,” he said.

Regenerati­ve agricultur­e has been a controvers­ial topic in recent times and late last year, the New Zealand Institute of Agricultur­al and Horticultu­ral Science said it was ‘‘concerned about the dearth of sound science underpinni­ng the hype surroundin­g regenerati­ve agricultur­e’’.

The organisati­on had published a series of articles from scientists in various discipline­s in its online AgScience magazine, which showed regenerati­ve agricultur­e was ‘‘more hype than reality,’’ it said.

At that time, it welcomed a call by the Ministry for Primary Industries for proposals for projects that would investigat­e regenerati­ve farming practices.

When contacted, NZM general manager markets and sustainabi­lity Dave Maslen said those farmers that signed up did so because they could see — regardless of what its definition was — that was the word the market was using.

The market and growers were working together ‘‘to define what it means for us’’.

It was about setting a baseline, understand­ing the system from environmen­tal, animal welfare and social perspectiv­es, implementi­ng some practices and monitoring changes over time.

The word regenerati­ve had been ‘‘bubbling around’’ for some time and more had been heard about it over the last three or four years.

It was a language that consumers were using and consumers wanted to be part of the solution to climate change, Mr Maslen said.

NZM had been examining it for some years and a workshop was held in March last year, bringing together scientists and brand partners from around the world, and growers, and thrashing out what regenerati­ve meant to all of them and what they might be able to do.

It was launched to growers in May and June and a ‘‘lot more’’ farmers were wanting to sign on to the waiting list.

Direct connectivi­ty to market meant growers were far more aware of what consumers were seeking.

As far as prices paid to growers, Mr Maslen said the intention was the same way that ZQ had created longterm stable high value contracts.

The statement said the three brands were working collective­ly to support the platform.

 ??  ?? John Brakenridg­e
John Brakenridg­e

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