IWTO Tackles Key Industry Priorities
December 7, 2018

At the mid-year meeting of the International Wool Textile Organization in Buenos Aires, Argentina, this week, key priorities for the global wool market were addressed including sustainability and the strong track record of sheep producing nations on animal care and welfare in the face of unfounded claims by animal activists worldwide.

The industry continues to move forward on developing a full life cycle analysis for wool and sheep meat, taking into consideration land and water use, as well as the durability and use of garments. Recently, IWTO published the use phase review, showing wool garments were washed less frequently and at a lower wash temperature than other fibers. This is significant, because the use phase of a garment is the largest contributor that garment's perceived environmental footprint.

Absent this data, consumers can be misled to believe that wool is less sustainable than synthetic fibers, despite the fact that wool is naturally regenerative and biodegradable. As this work continues, the American Sheep Industry Association expects to see many more positive results for wool and wool producers.

The product wellness working group discussed a number of studies being done on wool as it relates to health. Wool is a healthy fiber for active people of all ages, but also has shown tremendous benefits for those suffering from skin and sleep issues.

Following a study debunking the myth of wool allergy, the working group recently submitted a paper to be peer reviewed on the beneficial effects on atopic dermatitis of wearing fine wool base layers for adults and children suffering from eczema. The study - conducted in Louisville, Ky. - found statistically significant improvement in participants' symptoms when they wore fine wool base layers. A new global study will look to replicate these results in Europe and Asia.

A companion study looking at sleep quality comparing wool, cotton and polyester sleepwear in summer conditions has also yielded positive results. That study found major benefits for wool; showing earlier sleep onset for older participants, less fragmented sleep and reports of overall improved sleep and quality of life.

While much of this focuses on the use of fine wools, finding new and innovative uses and markets for coarse wools is a major priority around the world.

With engagement from ASI, IWTO continues to visit with corporate social responsibility managers at global apparel companies - many headquartered in the United States - stressing wool's benefits to consumers, responsible land use and the stringent animal care and welfare standards of producing nations. Telling wool's positive story and the story of America's wool producers is a top priority for ASI.

Working with IWTO, ASI continues to develop the resources and tools to not just talk about these issues but prove them empirically with scientific and peer-reviewed data in stark contrast to the emotional and factually inaccurate arguments presented by animal activists.