In April 2021, the Australian sheep and wool industry launched the world’s first Sheep Sustainability Framework to demonstrate the industry’s sustainable practices, identify areas for improvement, and better communicate with customers and consumers.
With funding and strategic and secretarial support from Australian Wool Innovation and Meat & Livestock Australia, WoolProducers Australia and Sheep Producers Australia led the development of the Sustainability Framework.
The Sheep Sustainability Framework demonstrates the industry’s commitment to continuous improvement by providing a system to monitor, measure and report the Australian sheep industry’s performance against sustainability priorities. The Sustainability Framework has identified 21 priorities relevant to sustainable sheep production in Australia, which have been classed into four themes:
- Caring for our sheep
- Enhancing the environment and climate
- Looking after our people, our customers and the community; and
- Ensuring a financially resilient industry.
The performance of the sheep industry in these areas, tracked over time, will provide evidence of the industry’s commitment to continuous improvement. It will demonstrate that Australia has a clear path towards sustainably produced sheep meat and wool.
The Sustainability Framework is a food and fibre framework that encompasses the value chain for both Australian sheep meat and wool, from farm to fork and fibre, and sheep to shelf. The Sustainability Framework covers farms (including feedlots), transport (including live sheep exports), saleyards and Australian sheep meat and wool processors. Within the next three years, coverage is expected to extend to overseas processing sectors.
Being able to demonstrate the sustainable production of sheep meat and wool is critical in securing access to local and global customers and markets. Customers want to be confident that the food and fibre they purchase has been produced responsibly. The Sustainability Framework will provide evidence of this, improve transparency and build trust. A focus on aligning animal welfare, environmental, economic and social practices with best practice and community expectations, while managing sheep profitably, will help ensure continued access to markets and capital for Australian sheep businesses.
The Sustainability Framework takes an industry-wide perspective and therefore does not require any direct input from sheep and wool producers at an individual business level. The Framework does not audit or certify individual businesses, nor impose costs or create paperwork for individual businesses. However, producers need to be aware of changing customer expectations, reflect on their current practices and take opportunities to improve these where necessary. Individual businesses may use the Framework to understand the industry’s sustainability credentials and consider these in their forward planning.