Following the ZQ journey

Brent Squires’ excitement for the ZQ Programme is palpable following his recent trip to The New Zealand Merino Company, the home of what is considered the world’s leading ethical wool. ZQ Fibre, developed by NZM, was launched in 2007 as the world’s first ethical wool brand, proving traceability, quality, and sustainability of the fibre, a Programme that embraces social responsibility at its very core.

AWN last year launched the ZQ Programme in Australia,

which uses non-mulesed and ceased mulesed wool, and recently provided four AWN staff members with the opportunity to travel to The New Zealand Merino Company’s new headquarters in Christchurch.

“There is great excitement around the new products. [Brands] are certainly embracing wool and committed to a sustainable environment.”

Stephen Maunder from Queensland, David Mahilraj from Bathurst (NSW), Brent Squires from Ballarat (Victoria) and Brett Cox from Tasmania headed to the land of the long white cloud to increase their knowledge and understanding of the ZQ Programme, including the auditing process, pricing mechanisms and contract arrangements, as well as to meet ZQ brand partners.

Having witnessed first-hand the research and development, new products and the commitment to creating sustainable and environmentally-friendly products, Brent said the future for wool was fantastic.

“I have seen casual runners incorporating wool into their design, waterproof jackets with wool liners, woollen surfboards and indoor shoes which could replace the ugg boot,’’ he said.

“The Firewire ‘Woolight’ surfboard idea came about when resin was spilt on a woollen jumper and the result was similar to fibreglass. It is lightweight and flexible and the opportunities here, using crossbred wool, are massive. The Glerups indoor shoe has a soft calf skin, or rubber sole and utilises 26.5 and 29.5 micron wool in its construction and is a great development. The Allbirds wool runner  is an unbelievable success story of a company that dared to be different by incorporating 17.5 micron merino wool into their runners.’’ Allbirds launched in 2014 with the wool runner and The Wall Street Journal recently valued them at $1.4 billion US dollars.

Brent said the group was able to meet with the entire New Zealand Merino team and spend some hours with key staff discussing in detail the ZQ Programme with key staff such as Dave Maslen - General Manager Markets and Sustainability, Mike Hargadon - General Manager Supply, Innovation and Logistics, Keith Ovens - General Manager Commercial and CSR and Ethical Sourcing Manager Donna Didham.

“We went through NZM’s entire list of brand partners and identified the types of wools that are sourced from wool producers to supply those companies, from 12 micron Merino right through to 40 micron crossbred wools. Among other things the new, modern office incorporates a research and development centre and a grower lounge where visitors can have a coffee, use the Wi-Fi and look at just some of the products which are at the cutting edge of wool manufacturing technology,’’ he said.

“There is great excitement around the new products. They are certainly embracing wool and committed to a sustainable environment.

“We went to a number of farms and it was great to happen to catch up with some of my Australian Wool Network clients who were also touring the farms. We are seeing a real shift in demand and an increasing premium for non-mulesed wool.

“Merino wool producers are over here seeing how New Zealanders are breeding sheep that are  more suitable for non‑mulesing and seeing different farming styles. We travelled back to Christchurch for the opening of the new office which was attended by the New Zealand Minister for Economic Development, Environment & Trade and Export Growth and other key innovators from the ZQ brand partners who had travelled to NZ for the opening of the new NZM head office.’’

Brent said it could be daunting to get your head around reaching some of the standards set for the ZQ Programme as the company was at the very pinnacle when it came to guaranteeing ethically sourced wool to consumers.

“However there is plenty of help with meeting the Programme’s high standards with on-farm visits, working manuals and support lines with guidance on meeting the Programme’s requirements,’’ he said.

“We are now looking at adapting these Programmes in Australia, our visit to NZ has allowed us to be able to better comprehend what the brand partners are looking for from their ZQ growers.

It was a very worthwhile trip for me as it gave me an opportunity to put many names to faces, the level of conversation you have on the phone is not the same as you can have in person. I was also able to get a better understanding of the close relationships they have with their brand partners, the shared values and the depth of commitment they have for the future of wool.

“The world is excited about environmentally-friendly produced products that are sustainable into the future and we were able to share in the excitement of the industry about the number of new markets being developed for wool, which has never been as strong or as in great demand as it is today.’’

AWN National Wool and Livestock Marketing Manager Mark Quartermain said the company wanted to ensure staff fully understood not just the detail but also the depth behind the ZQ Programme.

“Those specialist trained staff are then able to help other AWN staff and clients with information about the programme. we are getting increasing enquiry about non-mulesed and ceased mulesed wools and we want to be able to help our clients by providing them with the most up-to-date information and pathways available to them. The real objective is to help and educate our staff so they in turn can help our clients”.


For more information on the ZQ Programme contact your AWN wool specialist or:

Mark Quartermain
0429 466 248