‘Nothing about wool is sustainable’ – report debunks the fabric’s eco-friendly myth

According to the report, the average climate cost of sheep’s wool is 3 times greater than acrylic and more than 5 times greater than conventionally grown cotton.

According to the report, the average climate cost of sheep’s wool is 3 times greater than acrylic and more than 5 times greater than conventionally grown cotton.

 Wool production plays a key role in biodiversity loss and climate change, a new report reveals.

Titled Shear Destruction: Wool, Fashion and the Biodiversity Crisis, the study shows that that wool is not a fibre simply provided by nature but a product of modern industrial, chemical, ecological and genetic processes.

The report has been prepared in partnership between the Center for Biological Diversity and Collective Fashion Justice’s CIRCUMFAUNA.

Report findings

Researchers compared wool to other materials used in similar types of clothing. They found that the average climate cost of sheep’s wool is 3 times greater than acrylic and more than 5 times greater than conventionally grown cotton.

Moreover, wool uses 367 times more land per bale than cotton. Also, the chemically intensive process of cleaning shorn wool kills aquatic life and pollutes waterways.

The report concluded that the wool industry, which has successfully promoted a false perception that fabric made from sheep hair is ‘natural, traditional, and sustainable’, is anything but eco-friendly.

‘Inefficient, unsustainable and exploitative industry’

Stephanie Feldstein is the population and sustainability director at the Center for Biological Diversity and co-author of the report. She said; “The industry has been pulling the wool over our eyes for decades, claiming that wool is a sustainable fibre.

 “Wool clothing comes with a heavy price tag of greenhouse gas emissions, land use, biodiversity loss, and pollution. Nothing about wool is sustainable.”

Emma Hakansson, Collective Fashion Justice founding director and co-author of the report added: “Sheep grazing pasture land may seem innocent and natural, but sheep are introduced, bred and eventually slaughtered while the grazed lands are degraded and prevented from thriving.

 “There’s nothing natural about this inefficient, unsustainable and exploitative industry.”

Stop wool’s outsized impact on biodiversity

The Center for Biological Diversity and Collective Fashion Justice are now calling on the fashion industry to ditch wool out or reduce its use by at least 50% by 2025.

The organisations are also urging the fashion players to research, develop and promote innovative eco-friendly materials that do not depend on fossil fuel-derived fibres (like acrylic, polyester and nylon).

Furthermore, they say that companies using wool must be more transparent about their impact on the planet.  In an analysis by Collective Fashion Justice of 50 top brands using “sustainability” terms to market their wool products, only 28% backed up the claim with any kind of reference.

 Joshua Katcher, founder of the CIRCUMFAUNA initiative and co-author of the report said: “We need to have an honest discussion about wool’s outsized impact on biodiversity loss and climate change and transition to plant-derived and high-tech innovative materials that don’t take such a big toll on native species and the climate.”

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