For Immediate Release, November 17, 2021

Contact:

Stephanie Feldstein, Center for Biological Diversity, (734) 395-0770, sfeldstein@biologicaldiversity.org
Emma Hakansson, Collective Fashion Justice, +61 401 629 297, emma@collectivefashionjustice.org
Joshua Katcher, CIRCUMFAUNA, (718) 249-3408, joshuakatcher@gmail.com

Report: Wool Production Carries Heavy Biodiversity Loss, Climate Price Tag

Climate Cost of Sheep’s Wool Is 5 Times Greater Than Conventionally Grown Cotton

NEW YORK, N.Y.— Wool production is a key contributor to biodiversity loss and climate change, according to a new report released today by the Center for Biological Diversity and Collective Fashion Justice’s CIRCUMFAUNA initiative.

Shear Destruction: Wool, Fashion and the Biodiversity Crisis finds that wool is not a fiber simply provided by nature but a product of modern industrial, chemical, ecological and genetic intervention that’s anything but eco-friendly.

“The industry has been pulling the wool over our eyes for decades, claiming that wool is a sustainable fiber,” said Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director at the Center for Biological Diversity and co-author of the report. “Wool clothing comes with a heavy price tag of greenhouse gas emissions, land use, biodiversity loss and pollution. Nothing about wool is sustainable.”

The report finds that compared to other materials used in similar types of clothing, 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 uses 367 times more land per bale than cotton, and the chemically intensive process of cleaning shorn wool kills aquatic life and pollutes waterways.

“Sheep grazing pastureland may seem innocent and natural, but sheep are introduced, bred and eventually slaughtered while the grazed lands are degraded and prevented from thriving,” said Emma Hakansson, Collective Fashion Justice founding director and co-author of the report. “There’s nothing natural about this inefficient, unsustainable and exploitative industry.”

The report also found that despite the pollution from slaughter, chemicals used in scouring, habitat destruction, and greenhouse gas emissions associated with wool, 87% of consumers perceive it as “safe for [the] environment.” 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.

“There’s a groundswell of truly sustainable and inspiring circumfaunal material out there, but cutting through the wool industry’s well-funded mythology is no easy task,” said Joshua Katcher, founder of the CIRCUMFAUNA initiative and co-author of the report. “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.”

The Center for Biological Diversity and Collective Fashion Justice are calling on fashion industry associations, brands and designers to commit to phasing out or reducing wool use by at least 50% by 2025, to support material innovation and embrace alternatives that do not depend on fossil fuel-derived fibers (such as acrylic, polyester and nylon), and to acknowledge the harms to biodiversity caused by wool in their sustainability language.

The report based its findings on available data from the Higg Material Sustainability Index (MSI), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Australian and U.S. government agency reports, industry sources and scientific papers.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.