Preferred Wool

Published 2019Back to Fiber Resources Home



Wool defined as preferred includes wool that is grown with a progressive approach to land management, and from sheep that have been treated responsibly.

As certification to third party standards is one of the strongest ways to ensure that product claims are accurate, we have differentiated ‘certified wool’, which is audited and certified by professional certification bodies to an independently owned, voluntary standard and ‘second party verified wool’, which is verified by an organization that has a business connection to the supply chain involved.

Preferred certified wool covered here are wool certified to the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), organic standard and recycled standard.

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Learn more about Responsible Wool:

Follow the development of Responsible Wool and access tools and resources to implement the standard.


Holistic respect of animal welfare includes protection of the Five Freedoms: freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury or disease, freedom to express normal behavior, and freedom from fear and distress. Practices that may cause distress, injury, or pain to the sheep include mulesing and shearing.
Mulesing: In particular, mulesing has raised the attention of animal welfare activists, media, and consumers. The practice involves removing a layer of skin to prevent fly strike, an equally dangerous and painful animal welfare risk. Management practices and breed selection may effectively prevent fly strike, and many brands and retailers have taken action to prohibit mulesing in their supply chains.

If left to graze without proper management and rotation, sheep may overgraze and put the ecology of that region at risk. Overgrazing can lead to loss of soil from wind and water erosion with no foliage left to hold it in place. Sheep farmers should have practices in place to prevent erosion, and even to help restore land health over time.

Wool is grown around the world, and it may be difficult for brands to manage issues across such a wide setting. Additionally, wool of different origins and quality types is often blended together to match the demands of price and quality. The Responsible Wool Standard is the first global, third-party verified independent standard for animal welfare, land management, and chain of custody.


First steps to using Responsible Wool:

In many cases, you will be able to find a RWS certified supplier that has available stock. You can contact them and get product integrated into your supply. If you would prefer to work with your existing supply chain, you will need to work with them to get certified. Each stage of production is required to get certified to maintain the chain of custody from the farm to the final product. The first step of certification is to contact the certification body to start the process.

Find a RWS supplier Find a RWS certification body

2019 Leaderboard

The Wool Index is a holistic consideration of both management and uptake of preferred wool. The companies listed here achieved a Level 4 Leading position in the 2019 MCI Wool Index and/or progress in uptake of preferred wool. Learn more at

Table notes:
1. Wool Index: The Wool Index is part of the Material Change Index family of indices and is derived from the CFMB survey responses to the Wool Module.
2. Level 4 Leading: Companies that are pioneering industry transformation and scored 76-100 out of 100 possible points in the Wool Index.
3. Preferred Wool Portfolio includes: Organic, Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), ZQ Certified, Recycled.
4. Portfolio Progress: Companies that are at 50% or more preferred wool (including companies at 100%).
5. Top 10 by Volume: Companies reporting the highest volumes of preferred wool uptake.



The RWS International Working Group is intended to guide and support the Responsible Wool Standard. This group is comprised of stakeholders across the industry, including brands and retailers, suppliers, producers, animal welfare experts, land management experts, and others. Click here for more information.


If you are interested in joining this group, please send an email to