"We have worked not only with the farmers raising the sheep but with our entire manufacturing supply chain"

"We have worked not only with the farmers raising the sheep but with our entire manufacturing supply chain"

US outdoor clothing giant Patagonia has reintroduced wool into its product lines after three years, with stricter sourcing rules now in place.

In 2015, Patagonia made the conscious decision to put a pause on its wool sourcing after an investigation exposed "extreme cruelty" at one of its main suppliers. The company waited until it could "assure customers of a verifiable process that ensures the humane treatment of animals," and now says all wool in its products will be certified to the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) from autumn.

In addition, all of Patagonia's key wool partners have also met the requirements outlined in the company's own Patagonia Wool Standard (PWS). Both take consideration of best practices in animal welfare and land management and consultation with farms, animal welfare experts, brands and NGOs.

"As part of our wider responsibly sourced wool strategy, we have worked not only with the farmers raising the sheep but with our entire manufacturing supply chain to obtain certification to the RWS," Patagonia says in its blog. "This has meant that everyone from the scourer/top maker (who washes and initially processes the raw or greasy wool), the spinner (who takes the clean wool and turns it into yarn), to the finished goods factory all underwent audits to ensure they had strict chain of custody practices in place.

"This ensures that the responsible wool that was shorn at the certified farms was not mixed or swapped with conventional wool from other sources. This effort has spanned multiple supply chains and countries. In 2015 there were no RWS certified wool farms nor processors, but since then Patagonia and other concerned brands, suppliers and ranchers have helped increase adoption within the industry."

Patagonia says it has obtained certification for its own brand, which involved changing the way the company worked across a number of departments and undergoing on-site RWS audits at its distribution centre.

Among its learnings during the process were the challenged of supply chain transparency. 

"For the majority of wool sourcing brands, even mapping their wool to the farm is practically impossible due to the number of consolidators, agents and traders that are a feature of the global wool market. Through our diligence we were fortunate to find wool suppliers who were willing to provide us visibility to their farms, and also guarantee the traceability of our wool through the supply chain," it adds.