More than 300 people from the global wool textile industry attended the International Wool Textile Organisation's Congress held in Venice, Italy from April 9-11, 2019.
The major themes throughout the 2019 IWTO Congress were sustainability, traceability, animal welfare and supply chain transparency.
The congress' opening session featured Livia Firth, the founder and creative director of Eco-Age, an advocacy and sustainability consultancy with growing influence around the world.
Livia talked about the importance of telling the world's consumers the wool industry's message about sustainability, care and welfare of sheep.
She showed an excellent video about her trip to Tasmania to investigate how woolgrowers there are meeting these challenges.
Livia's message was reinforced in the sustainability session featuring Harriet Vocking, the chief brand officer at Eco-Age.
Livia talked about what Eco-Age does in working with retail brands to counter the impact of PETA and ensure retailers don't simply ban the use of wool in a knee-jerk reaction.
She said the wool industry must focus on and communicate the industry's environmental and animal stewardship, social wellbeing and economic prosperity, which are closely intertwined.
Without one, you cannot have the others, and the industry needs to communicate this.
Heinz Zeller (principal of sustainability at Hugo Boss) commented that as far as global retailers were concerned, the only issue for wool is mulesing.
In response, Harriet told the congress that the industry needs to accept and embrace that it will take time to move away from mulesing. It cannot be done overnight.
The wool industry's focus should be on communication - the industry needs to tell the story of the journey to reach non-mulesed wool production, as part of the positive message about the industry's environmental and animal stewardship.
Based on research presented at the congress, the trend to sustainability has probably had a more significant positive effect on demand for Merino wool than it has had on demand for broad wool.
The trend seems to be more relevant to next-to-skin clothing than it does for carpets and interior textiles.
The latest statistics on mulesing status from AWEX shows woolgrowers in Australia (which produces more than 70 per cent of the world's Merino wool) are responding to the rising demand from the world's retailers.
For the first time ever, more than half the wool offered at auction so far this season was Non-Mulesed (NM), mulesed with Pain Relief (PR) or Ceased Mulesed.
The proportion of wool offered as NM increased to 12.9 per cent and the proportion of wool offered as PR was at 35 per cent. Almost 70 per cent of wool offered at auction came with a National Wool Declaration.