- Patagonia will reintroduce wool into its products this fall, after putting "a pause" on its wool sourcing in 2015, the company said in a blog post. The apparel brand stopped sourcing wool after PETA revealed footage of animal cruelty related to Patagonia's wool supply.
- After three years of investigation, Patagonia said all wool in its products follows the Responsible Wool Standard "from farm to finished product."
- Patagonia said it worked with its entire manufacturing supply chain on responsible wool sourcing, including the scourer (who washes and processes raw wool), the spinner and the factory. "This effort has spanned multiple supply chains and countries," the brand said.
Patagonia's decision to stop sourcing wool was by no means easy, although the move was likely necessary to preserve reputation as a brand known for its political activism.
The apparel brand made the decision in 2015 to stop buying wool entirely from Ovis 21, a network of farmers. "It is impossible to ensure immediate changes to objectionable practices on Ovis 21 ranches," Patagonia wrote in a blog post in 2015. "This is a difficult decision, but it’s the right thing to do."
Cutting out a supplier required a drastic shift in the brand's supply chain. In some cases, Patagonia turned to synthetic materials to avoid potential sourcing issues.
As the brand investigated its wool supply chain, it encountered significant challenges with traceability. "Mapping [wool brands] to the farm is practically impossible due to the number of consolidators, agents and traders that are a feature of the global wool market," Patagonia said. Visibility beyond tier 1, especially for global supply chains sourcing raw materials, has proven challenging to many brands.
In addition, as Patagonia worked directly with farmers raising sheep, one of its biggest challenges was "finding suppliers who were willing to start this journey with us." Patagonia said all of its wool is certified to the Responsible Wool Standard, which ensures fair treatment of sheep and best practices for protecting land. Several other companies follow the standard, including H&M, REI and Williams Sonoma.
On top of the commitment, however, Patagonia also outlined its own 26-page wool standard for its supply chain. The brand claimed its standard is "the hardest to meet," because it requires farmers to have visibility on conditions of the slaughterhouse after animals are sold. In other words, farmers need visibility into their downstream supply chain.
So in making significant changes to its wool sourcing, not only did Patagonia change its own practices, but it asked suppliers to make significant adjustments.
"We know that our requirements have challenged farmers to change centuries-old traditional wool ranching practices," the brand said. "We were able to find great farmers who truly believe that this was possible and wanted to be part of the forward movement to become part of our preferred supplier pool."