In every walk of life, we will find good and bad. “One bad apple can spoil the bunch”, but only if we let it.
How we behave when bad practice is brought to our attention defines us. Do we make a knee jerk reaction to condemn the whole bunch? Is it enough to identify the “bad apple” and remove it? Or do we listen, learn, support and encourage the bunch, so that they can identify the “bad apples” and take the necessary action to improve the processes so that the bad apples know their actions will not be tolerated.
When an activist group highlights mal practice within a supply chain, brands have choices. All too often the “easy choice” is to remove that material from their supply chain. The responsible and sustainable choice is to listen, learn, support, and encourage the actors in the supply chain to understand why the mal practice occurred and what can be done to prevent it happening again.
The alpaca industry in Peru has recently come under attack from an activist group. To be clear, the imagery that has been published discloses indefensible cruelty to animals which cannot be condoned. Walking away however should not be an option. All that happens is that the bad apples remain and the plight of the world’s 6M alpacas (71.7% of which are in Peru) remains unchanged. These animals and the communities that serve them, deserve our help and support.
There has been a National Technical Standard (231.370) in Peru, governing good shearing practices and the management of alpaca fiber fleece for many years. In December 2019, the National Institute of Quality (INCAL) approved the 3rd Edition, which is now available in Quechua, the native language of the Inca people.
Publishing a Facebook video, https://www.facebook.com/inacalperu/videos/1034763956884814/ to launch the release of this new edition, INCAL is looking to support the communities in adopting the standard in order to protect Peru’s export market. Peru is aware that the brands using their products supply consumers who have expectations about how materials are sourced. Animal welfare is a key driver when it comes to making purchasing decisions.
Restraint is a necessary part of any shearing process and there are rules which govern how this restraint is undertaken. These rules were not being adhered to in the footage shown by the activist group. Therefore, the practices highlighted are not the accepted norm and we should avoid tarring the whole industry.
Constructive advice for the brands being targeted and feeling vulnerable by this exposé:
- Ascertain what NTS 231.370 describes as good practice and how the standard is governed and enforced. (I have not been able to source a copy of the text)
- Decide whether the description meets your customers’ expectations of “good practice”.
- Work with the industry to review how the standards are implemented effectively.
- Support the relevant bodies in funding the necessary education and training required to improve levels of compliance.
- Work to develop and implement a preferred fiber sourcing policy (there is no point in jumping away from Alpaca, if you replace it with another non-preferred fiber).
- Watch the webinar “Introduction Responsible Alpaca Standard” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tso7K6e5Hk and support Textile Exchange in establishing the Responsible Alpaca Standard (join the International Working Group by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org)