Swinging open the gate on Australian sheep farms

Swinging open the gate on Australian sheep farms

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Australia's sheep producers want to capitalise on their industry's sustainable credentials.

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COLLECTING DATA: The framework will collect data on the wool and sheep meat industry.

COLLECTING DATA: The framework will collect data on the wool and sheep meat industry.

Australia's sheep producers want to capitalise on their industry's sustainable credentials.

Sheep Producers Australia and WoolProducers Australia yesterday released the next stage in its plan with the launch of the Australian Sheep Sustainability Framework.

The framework is the industry's way of making sure its own house is in order, including contentious issues around mulesing and greenhouse gases.

It comes after the launch of its "Trust in Australian Wool" campaign a month ago.

The framework is a key part of that campaign to be "open and honest" with consumers.

The SSF was initiated by Australia's sheep industry leaders to demonstrate its sustainable practices, identify areas for improvement, and better communicate with customers and consumers.

The framework lists 21 priorities across the 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.

"Opportunities created by the world's growing demand for sustainably produced food and fibre include increasing access to markets and investment; building confidence in the integrity of sheep meat and wool products; enhancing community trust; better rewarding industry people; and meeting demand for nutritious food and natural fibre," the framework reads.

"However, our industry acknowledges that there are challenges linked to these opportunities such as: avoiding land degradation and biodiversity loss; managing climate risk and water scarcity; meeting expectations on animal welfare; protecting human rights in global supply chains; and ensuring businesses are financially sustainable.

"Our customers want to be confident that the food and fibre they purchase has been produced responsibly. Demonstration of sustainable production of sheep meat and wool is critical in securing access to local and global customers and markets. Traceability is fundamental to this demonstration.

"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. It will also support continuous improvement across the industry."

The framework was developed by an industry-led Sustainability Steering Group after a year of consultation.

Sheep Producers Australia chair, Chris Mirams, said there are significant opportunities available to Australia's sheep industry as a result of the world's growing interest and demand for sustainably produced food and fibre.

"Increasing access to markets and investment, building confidence in the integrity of sheep meat and wool products, enhancing community trust and better rewarding industry are some of the opportunities we have as a result of this growing consumer interest," Mr Mirams said.

"The Australian Sheep Sustainability Framework has been designed and developed so our sheep industry can best harness these opportunities."

WoolProducers Australia president Ed Storey said with consumer trends and demand, there was a real opportunity for Australia's sheep industry to better articulate our sustainability story, with improved transparency a critical part of that success.

"To me, being transparent is the key to the Australian sheep industry seizing our opportunities and maximising the benefits," Mr Storey said.

"Having this industry-led framework means that we will provide an open and honest picture of our high standards of practice and performance using the most appropriate and robust data available."

The framework's steering group chair Professor Bruce Allworth said the industry acknowledges there are challenges linked to the many available opportunities.

"For the industry to seize these opportunities, we need to ensure we address challenges such as ensuring businesses are financially sustainable, avoiding land degradation and biodiversity loss, managing climate risk and water scarcity, meeting expectations on animal welfare, and protecting human rights in the global supply chain," Prof Allworth said.

"Across the 21 priorities there are relevant indicators and metrics so we can measure and track industry performance year on year.

"This evidence base will help ensure continued access to markets and capital for Australian sheep businesses. It will also support continuous improvement across the industry."

Prof Allworth said implementation for the framework would be addressed through a 3-year strategy with annual plans to engage industry stakeholders and experts to tackle sustainability challenges for the industry.

"Constructive engagement via the formation of a Consultative Committee comprising industry and external stakeholders will ensure that we achieve our vision in the framework - that is sustainably producing the world's best sheep meat and wool, now and into the future," Professor Allworth said.

"Over the next year, the immediate plan is to capture baseline data for metrics that were not available at the time of the framework launch."

The framework is designed to be a living document, subject to review and refinement to remain relevant and meets the expectations of all stakeholders.

You can download the framework here.

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