HB's Tom O'Sullivan leads Campaign for Wool advocacy

Campaign promotes high value end uses for strong wool.


  Added one year ago

HB's Tom O'Sullivan leads Campaign for Wool advocacy

Late last year the Campaign for Wool launched a new three year strategy and welcomed new chair Ryan Cosgrove. The organisation, with strong links to Hawke’s Bay, is on a mission to drive more value to Kiwi sheep farmers by increasing strong wool prices.

HB Future Farming Trust caught up with Tom O’Sullivan, fourth generation Hawke’s Bay farmer and Campaign For Wool’s (CFW) immediate past chairman and current GM-advocacy for the organisation.

O’Sullivan says that CFW’s main role is to act as an enabler and amplifier for the industry. “We want to get wool back to the point where it is a significant revenue stream for New Zealand farmers.”

He praises the Merino wool model, where there’s visibility from the farmer to the end buyer, and where there’s been a good job done in marketing the fibre as something worth paying for, compared to the commodity status of strong wool.

“We need to get the strong wool industry to pull together. Currently it’s fragmented. We need to bring all the wool groups together, collaborate, and have a single strategy.”

CFW’s new strategy has three pillars:

  1. Education
  2. Promotion
  3. Advocacy

Wool in Schools is CFW’s education initiative, highlighting the environmental benefits of wool, and tapping into the heightened environmental interest and concerns of today’s students, all the way from primary to tertiary education. Currently Wool in Schools has been rolled out to just 25,000 primary schoolkids, but plans to digitise the resource and develop new content for older students will exponentially expand its reach.

Promotion relies on working more closely with the building design community – architects, designers, specifiers – telling a better story of wool’s uses and applications to get wool specified in housing and commercial projects.

O’Sullivan says getting wool products specified ahead of synthetics remains a challenge. CFW will develop for a toolkit for this community that will allow them to specify wool flooring, panelling, and insulation seamlessly, at the click of a mouse.

He says there’s a massive positive for the wool industry at the moment.

“There’s a groundswell of consumers who are very rapidly waking up to the horrific environmental damage that has been done through our purchasing behaviours. That’s the biggest opportunity wool has had in decades to market to environmentally conscious consumers who are prepared to pay a premium.

“But we need to be organised, have a good story, and be connected to all parts of the supply chain, and then brand and market it well.”

The final pillar is advocacy, and O’Sullivan in his new role will support and enable the wool industry, working with brand partners, growers, industry and international counterparts. He’ll also be advocating for the industry in Wellington, and that will take a concerted effort and being in touch regularly.

To view the CFW three year strategy document click here.


Join the conversation

Brian Clark - Jan 29, 2023, 8:17 AM

Congratulations on your initiative. I am a retired IT exec who started as a wool classer at age 15, went to Massey to do an Ag Sci degree at 21, and started work in the computer industry after graduation. I saw clearly how the auction system commoditised the wool product during my tile asa wool classer. Keep up the good work.

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