Changes to the Responsible Wool Standard criteria will be unveiled early next year, with new environmental requirements for scouring and a relaxation of the ban on poison baiting set to become part of a new standard.
Certification body Textile Exchange is in the process of unifying its standards for eight different fibres and materials into a single standard, which will be available for adoption in 2025 but not made mandatory until 2026.
The updated standard will be released in early 2024 after two rounds of consultation on drafts, but pilot audits will be carried out through the year with the potential for more changes.
As of December 2022, around 5 per cent of Australian wool was certified under the RWS sustainability scheme.
A Textile Exchange spokeswoman said the standards transition was intended to ensure that the certification adequately demonstrates the good practices that they are carrying out and meets market expectations for wool.
"We have welcomed comments from any interested parties which includes wool industry bodies and animal welfare groups," she said.
"As well as the open comment periods we have held multiple Animal Fiber Round Tables (in English and Spanish) to engage with wool growers as well as directly contacting certified RWS farm groups to ensure that they and their members could comment on issues of key importance to them.
"We also currently have team members in Australia talking to farm groups and industry bodies on a range of topics including the unified standard."
The spokeswoman said environmental requirements for scouring were new to the unified standard.
"Lanolin from RWS sheep is already being used - we know that some scouring facilities have a good market for this," she said.
"The production of lanolin from RWS certified sheep is already covered by our Content Claim Standard."
The spokeswoman said the current RWS standard prohibits all use of poison baits but there had been "representation from growers in Australia that invasive predator species such as foxes were causing predation issues and the extent of the population of these animals was such that they could not be controlled without the use of regional baiting programs".
In response changes were made allowing for the use of poison baits to control invasive predator species when non-lethal control methods have been shown to be ineffective, and when the baiting is carried out under a wildlife management plan developed with expert input from external bodies such as Landcare.
"Choice of poison, timing of poison and management of bait (including collection and disposal of unused bait) must all be part of the plan and must avoid non-target wildlife whether through primary or secondary poisoning," the spokeswoman said.
According to Textile Exchange's figures from the end of 2021, the company certified around 2.6pc of wool globally, including 3pc% of SA wool, 17pc of Uruguayan wool, 15pc of Argentinian wool and 3pc of Australian wool.
WoolProducers Australia CEO Jo Hall said while the organisation acknowledged that RWS had embedded itself throughout the global supply chain, they had long held concerns over this system.
"These concerns include the fact that some of these standards are too prescriptive which can ultimately lead to perverse outcomes, for example the prohibition of the use of poisons to control predators, which goes against coordinated and group baiting of predators like feral pigs, foxes and wild dogs which is an effective practice that is supported by both industry and Australian governments," she said.
"It would be far more sensible and meaningful if the RWS standards were outcome focused.
"Having a representative on Textile Exchange's Animal Fibres Working Group, WoolProducers are also gravely concerned of the weight given to animal rights groups in these discussions.
"It is hard to continue to engage with this process, and with this company, when they seem to be heavily influenced by organisations whose end game is to shut our industry down."