Australian merino wool growers have launched a new initiative to provide US retailers and brands with visibility into the fibre's supply chain in an attempt to offset concerns about issues such as mulesing.

The NewMerino brand offers a fully documented, traceable wool supply chain that gives retailers, manufacturers, and consumers the ability to trace back - from garment to farm - and confirm the complete pedigree of the wool they buy.

Purchasers can even specify what they're looking for, so they're matched with the best producer farm on anything from non-mulesed wool to organic farming techniques to carbon-reducing production methods to specific yarn attributes.

"Most wool supply chain documentation ends at the very first change of ownership which is usually at the commodity auction stage," explains Peter Vandeleur of e-wool, NewMerino's third-party supply chain manager.

"Wool changes hands many times throughout the textile manufacturing supply chain and unless detailed documentation is maintained, the integrity of the original wool can be completely destroyed."

The wool is produced through a network of 'Preferred Producer' farmers who adhere to stringent standards for responsible animal husbandry and environmental farming.

Rather than losing visibility of its wool by using the auction system, NewMerino provides a value-added, one-to-one connection between the purchaser and the producer.

As part of the scheme, the farmers complete detailed declarations and participate in frequent scheduled and random onsite inspections to ensure that they comply with the NewMerino program requirements.

The NewMerino network also includes combers and spinners who operate under strict socially and environmentally responsible manufacturing requirements.

And every NewMerino branded product has a unique e-number that can be entered in the online trace back system and connects to the farm profile where the wool originated.  

The initiative is hoping to tackle one of the biggest hurdles to the uptake of Australian wool: namely the fears by US clothing retailers that the reputation of their brands is threatened by the lack of action to end mulesing, which involves the cutting away of flesh from the hindquarters of sheep to prevent blowfly infestation.

Animal rights groups have successfully campaigned to stop retailers and brands such as Next, Liz Claiborne, Abercrombie & Fitch, Timberland and H&M from using Australian wool because of the practice.

NewMerino's supply chain is fully documented and managed by an independent, third-party company - e-wool. And its supporters say it far exceeds the standards required by the voluntary National Wool Declaration (NWD) system to certify wool as non-mulesed.