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New Zealand Merino Company launches world-first regenerative wool platform

The New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) and global Merino wool apparel and footwear brands Allbirds, icebreaker and Smartwool have joined forces to launch the world’s first regenerative wool platform.

Working with 167 sheep growers across the country, the brands have committed to sourcing their New Zealand Merino through the ZQRX platform in the aim to tackle the impact of the global fashion industry, which is responsible for 10 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

NZM CEO, John Brakenridge, says the company knows that on-farm emissions represent approximately 60 percent of the emissions associated with woollen products and is the biggest opportunity to lower environmental impact.

“We are on a journey of continuous improvement that recognises and celebrates progress over perfection,” he says.

“ZQRX is an important and necessary evolution of our ethical wool program, ZQ. Through the adoption of regenerative practices that both store more carbon and emit less, we could reduce our on-farm emissions down to zero.” 

Building on the success of NZM’s ethical wool platform, ZQ, ZQRX is the next step towards caring for people and the planet. Climate change and greenhouse gas emissions are addressed within the ZQRX framework, with regenerative farming practices representing a considerable opportunity to sequester (store) carbon, and slow climate change. The ZQRX index includes the foundational tenants of ZQ such as animal welfare and social responsibility, as well as an increased focus on environmental issues that directly reduce carbon emission and improve biodiversity, like waste, water quality and soil health.

Brackenridge says the index rewards the value of growers who are committed to regenerative agricultural practices.

“It is the start of a global movement toward brands, businesses and growers working together to address critical global issues such as climate change and biodiversity loss. We dream of a day when all wool is farmed with regenerative practices.” 

Being the Merino wool industry’s most iconic brands,.Allbirds, icebreaker, and Smartwool are putting their competitive nature aside and are working collectively to support the ZQRX platform and address the challenges of climate change.

Allbirds co-founder Tim Brown says his brand and others have enough influence to make a change in the industry.

“With ZQRX, we are backing a movement towards a truly regenerative future, one that prioritises the planet and supports our unwavering pursuit to make better things in a better way,” he says.

Known for their sustainability efforts, icebreaker and Smartwool helped found the original ZQ platform 13 years ago, while Allbirds, who also source ZQ ethical wool, will be the first fashion brand to label every item produced with its carbon footprint. 

Smartwool brand president, Jen Mclaren, says the company has been driving innovative sustainable Merino wool solutions for over 25 years.

“ZQRX is the next ‘better’ way and an important advancement in moving our industry forward. By working together we can affect change at scale,” she says.

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