ZQ wool [pronounced 'zee-q']
The New Zealand Merino Company launched ZQ Merino in 2007 as the world's first ethical wool brand. ZQ wool provides a marque of integrity for growers committed to ‘the cessation of mulesing’, animal welfare, fibre quality, environmental sustainability and social responsibility.
ZQ takes its name from the intuitive balance between IQ and EQ, and is built on the three pillars of partnership, performance and protection. These pillars are guided by two Māori concepts Manaakitanga and Kaitiakitanga.
Manaakitanga means to “care for a person’s mana” and well-being, in a holistic sense. On a marae, it is often claimed that it is not what is said that matters but how people are looked after. The essence of manaakitanga also extends to the support and care of animals.
Kaitiakitanga means guardianship and protection. It is a way of managing the land for future generations, based on the Māori world view.
Manaakitanga and Kaitiakitanga show the interconnectedness of people, place and animals that form the foundation of ZQ wool.
Today ZQ continues to evolve and lead. Our world is at a pivot point with the loss of biodiversity, climate change, pollution and the mounting wave of microplastics in our water and air. It's vital that the world transitions away from plastic fossil fuel-based synthetic fibres, to natural alternatives.
ZQ is proud to be at the leading edge of this transition, by bringing together nature’s most high-performance fibre with the world’s leading brands to:
- Lead environmental sustainability
- Serve and connect with the needs of global conscious consumers
- Deliver natural, sustainable and ethical wool solutions
- Promote the concept of wool for wellness
Old Volatile Model
The old wool supply model is driven by production volumes, pricing volatility and vulnerability, no incentive to collaborate and innovate.
ZQ Sustainability Cycle
The ZQ model is driven by end-user needs, value over volume, pricing certainty, encourages collaboration and innovation.
What is the ZQ programme?
Our ZQ grower accreditation programme was the first in Australasia to prohibit the practice of sheep mulesing and our ZQ growers continue to understand and appreciate the need to push boundaries and challenge existing practice. The ZQ programme is continually reviewed and updated, incorporating learnings and improvements from our on-farm research and development work.
The ZQ programme is independently audited, giving you confidence in:
- ANIMAL WELFARE
- CONSISTENT (HAND-SELECTED) FIBRE QUALITY
- SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
- ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY
ZQ is an established grower accreditation standard, owned and operated by The New Zealand Merino Company Ltd and is under application to certification ISO/IEC 17065:2012 which provides assurance for the integrity of our programme. Independent third party audits are conducted by AsureQuality (www.asurequality.com), an internationally recognised assurance organisation compliant with ISO/IEC 17065 (formally ISO Guide 65 and ISO 9001), and accredited with the Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand (JASANZ). AsureQuality is a State Owned Enterprise that has been designing, developing and delivering farm assurance services since 1994. AsureQuality specialises in the delivery of audit systems with a high level of integrity and consistency, and audits approximately 15,000 sheep, beef and dairy farms per annum for several other assurance programmes within New Zealand and Australia.
Our audits can identify improvements required on farm which result in agreed timebound actions. We will work with growers on continuous improvement however if egregious violations are identified and/or there is no commitment to take the required action, the grower will be excluded from the ZQ programme.
The audit results will specify a timeframe for the actions, however we must remain flexible in our approach to enable remediation. Acknowledgement of the cost, resource and adverse weather conditions to rectify findings are typical examples to be considered. The priority is the welfare of animals and people and where risk exists, the timeframe will reflect the urgency e.g. broken floorboards in sheds must be fixed promptly.
ZQ certification is valid for 3 years however, in New Zealand our team of Area Managers are constantly visiting properties and have ample opportunity to discuss and assist with any challenges. Growers also have access to workshops and field days where collaboration is key. Our in-house production science team provide another level of expertise when needed.
Animal welfare is something we take very seriously, and it forms a significant component of the ZQ accreditation programme which prohibits mulesing.
ZQ sheep graze on pastures in ‘free range’ extensive farming conditions. The ZQ accreditation programme ensures healthy animals by providing these five key freedoms:
FREEDOM FROM HUNGER OR THIRST
Sheep must be well-fed and watered. Sheep with good nutrition are better able to cope with natural stress, such as extreme weather. Farmers must manage their farms to ensure sheep always have access to clean water and adequate nutrition.
FREEDOM FROM DISCOMFORT
Farmers must ensure that their sheep have adequate shade and shelter available at all times.
FREEDOM FROM INJURY OR DISEASE
Farmers must regularly monitor each sheep, to help prevent disease and illness and rapidly diagnose animal health issues.
FREEDOM TO DISPLAY NATURAL BEHAVIOUR
Sheep must be free range and roam in open pastures. This allows them to display their natural patterns of behaviors with minimal human intervention or interference.
FREEDOM FROM PAIN OR DISTRESS
Farmers must manage sheep to avoid any unnecessary stress and pain. Their farms also need to be maintained to ensure they do not pose a risk of injury.
We audit farms regularly and also conduct inspections with a registered veterinarian or third party to ensure on going compliance to ZQ. Please feel free to contact us if you have any further questions or concerns.
Are ZQ sheep mulesed?
No, mulesing is not permitted on properties that supply ZQ wool. Growers have adopted intergrated strategies to manage the risk of flystrike, without mulesing. ZQ wool has led the world to be the first accredited Merino fibre that guarantees mulesing does not occur.
Does mulesing still occur in New Zealand?
New Zealand has not officially banned mulesing yet, although we understand a revision of the Animal Welfare Act is currently underway that will ban the practice. For more information please contact the NZ Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).
Are ZQ sheep harmed in the process of harvesting wool?
ZQ fibre is harvested in a process called shearing. Timing of shearing must be appropriate for the breed of sheep and their environment, including weather conditions. The main shear will normally take place between August and November to ensure they still have their woolly coats for the cold winter months. Shearers, are highly skilled and pride themselves on careful handling of the sheep. They leave a good covering of wool on the sheep to keep them warm – just like a number four haircut! Machine shears are the most popular because they are fast and efficient ensuring minimal stress on the animal. Shearing is not just about harvesting the wool – it is also about keeping the animals comfortable, relieving them from having to endure the hot summer months with a heavy fleece.
A common question is what does traceability actually mean? It takes wool fibre of various lengths and strengths to make the ideal recipe for the yarn and material for any one product. The example below shows how multiple wool bales enter the supply chain for processing and produce a product that can be traced back to a group of growers.
ZQ wool is fully traceable to individual farms, connecting the garment to the grower, and giving you confidence in the integrity of the fibre. This is made possible through the New Zealand Merino Company’s forward contract model.
ZQ wool is sourced from New Zealand with additional supply also available from hand selected, ZQ accredited properties in Australia & South Africa (where required). These properties are audited to the same standards as those in New Zealand.
Consistent (hand-selected) fibre quality
Each ZQ fleece is individually hand classed and selected to client specifications. ZQ wool is available in a wide range of microns, from fine merino (12-24 micron) through to stronger wool (25-40 micron).
Working with selected growers whose farming systems consistently meet quality parameters, ZQ accredited wool is renowned for its outstanding processing and performance attributes:
- Superior whiteness
- Superior strength
- Low vegetable matter
- Low levels of contamination
- Low coefficient of variation of fibre diameter
Sustainable farming is closely linked with the social and economic welfare of farmers, farm workers and their local communities.
The ZQ accreditation programme encourages the continuation of the culture of robustness and resilience and the health and safety of those living, working and visiting ZQ accredited farms.
Healthy animals are reliant on a healthy environment, both of which are consistent with productive and profitable farming.
To ensure this environment is maintained for future productivity, our ZQ accredited growers undertake active positive management that results in the production of premium quality fibre, created in harmony with environmental sustainability.
All growers must have, and be adhering to, an approved and documented environmental management plan to manage the environmental impacts associated with their farming system.
The world’s natural resources are precious and we must take care of them for future generations. Our growers are stewards of the land and we exist to support them.
ZQ wool is nature's performance fibre
ZQ fibre is naturally technical; it moves moisture away from the skin, adapts to warm or cool you according to the conditions, protects you from the sun, and resists the build-up of odour.
ZQ is the perfect fibre for year-round comfort and performance. Created by nature to protect sheep against the extremes of their environment—from freezing winters to scorching summers—the inherent properties of wool fibre make it a very smart choice for humans as well.
In summer, ZQ merino helps to regulate body temperature and keep you dry as the fibre naturally absorbs and releases moisture, maintaining a balance between the internal and external environment, without any clamminess. When the temperature drops, ZQ merino adjusts to keep you warm.
Fine, soft and silky ZQ merino fibre can be made into the most lightweight and breathable of summer garments that feel wonderful to wear and provide good levels of UV protection.
ZQ wool is completely natural fibre that is both renewable and biodegradable, so it as gentle on the environment as it is on you.
ZQ wool compared to fossil fuel-based synthetic fibres
Synthetic Apexa Fibre
Synthetic Apexa Fibre
ZQ Wool Fibre
ZQ wool is nature's high-performance fibre
ZQ Research & Development Projects
Our in-house R&D team provides bespoke technical support on a range of levels to help validate and support the natural benefits of ZQ wool.
The Ten ZQ Commandments
ZQ wool is packed with a number of amazing natural attributes, below are the top 10 for you to discover:
Cradle to Cradle™
During 2017 we investigated opportunity for greasy wool fibre with Cradle to Cradle™. We were thrilled to achieve a silver status but also the highest platinum level of certification for our material health. To learn more visit:
Grower Environmental plans
The ZQ programme requires growers to have a land environment plan that describes how land will be managed to avoid negative impact. This includes water quality affected by effluent run off, silage pit leachate, fertiliser and agrichemical run-off, and excess sediment from earthworks. The use of water for irrigation and stock water is also a significant issue and the sustainable extraction and use of water is key.
- Ability of humans and stock to drink from the waterways.
- Ability of humans to swim and enjoy waterways.
- Ability of waterways to sustain a healthy ecosystem and,
- Minimisation of nutrient run-off.
The ZQ programme strives to link growers with customers and secure forward contracts that provide economic stability. Growers achieve income security via 3 -5 year forward contracts for their wool supply enabling them to invest in their farming enterprise. Customers achieve a stable price for their supply that should in turn flow through supply chains, ensuring employment security.
Life Cycle Assessment Study
A life cycle assessment, or LCA, evaluates the resource requirements of a specific product and seeks to quantify the environmental impacts over its lifetime. LCA even has its own international standard to ensure transparency and credibility.
ZQ conducted a study, where we looked at ZQ merino products from cradle to grave – which involved primary data collection from the value chain, regional data collection, and modelling of consumer behaviour.
The study revealed that:
- LCA methodology around renewability and the biodegrading of wool could be further explored
- Online purchasing had reduced impacts in comparison to retail pick up scenario
- Cold washing and air drying consumer messaging is recommended
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
For more than a decade, through the evolution of the ZQ programme we have addressed sustainability issues. We have looked at how we can validate the issues we feel are important and recognise that aligning to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is the best way forward.
We have identified 5 goals that stand out as opportunities to continue to explore alignment, however we have also found touch-points in many of the other goals that encourage us to continue referencing these global objectives.
The ZQ programme addresses social responsibility including health and safety compliance which is hugely important on-farm. ZQ also works in a ‘ blue ocean’ space, conducting research on the attributes of wool that enhance wellbeing.
The ZQ programme provides a platform of learning opportunity for our growers and the wool industry. Growers have access to an experienced team to assist with continuous improvement of farming practices, including environment and animal welfare. ZQ consistently pushes the boundaries exploring research and development opportunities and to share insights with both our growers and the wider wool industry.
ZQ supply chain code of conduct
The New Zealand Merino Company Limited (NZM) Code of Conduct describes our ethical and sustainable business operations and equivalent expectation of all our supply chain partners.
Our purpose is to connect innovative brands, value chain partners and growers (farmers) to create a sustainable economic future for our communities, set the standard for animal welfare and protect our environment for future generations.
We seek to protect and promote the wool fibre industry by continually working toward global best practice and sustainable solutions with industry peers. To achieve this, we value our close relationships with stakeholders, that include our grower suppliers, supply chain partners and brand partners, to identify opportunities and a vision for the future.
NZM respect and reference the UN Global Compact Sustainable Development Goals to seek opportunities to align future goals and objectives in all areas of our business impact.
Employees earn a fair wage and our growers have access to income stability through our forward contract model. We promote safe and healthy workplaces for all.
Our main area of impact is through our growers and the unique challenges they face on their properties. Farm environment planning is required to identify issues, set goals and provide ongoing record of improvement.
Our business partners ethos must complement our core values, include an ethical and environmental approach to doing business, and have a commitment to sustainability including social, environmental and economic sustainability in general.
COMPLIANCE WITH THE LAW
There must be compliance with all relevant and applicable laws and regulations of the country or a higher standard.
Employers shall adopt and adhere to rules and conditions of employment that respect workers and, at a minimum, safeguard their rights under national and international labour and social security laws and regulations.
No person shall be subject to any discrimination in employment, including hiring, compensation, advancement, discipline, termination or retirement, on the basis of gender, race, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, nationality, political opinion, social group or ethnic origin.
HARASSMENT OR ABUSE
Every employee shall be treated with respect and dignity. No employee shall be subject to any physical, sexual, psychological or verbal harassment or abuse.
CHILD LABOUR & YOUNG WORKER
No person shall be employed under the age of 14 or under the age for completion of compulsory education, whichever is higher. Young workers will be protected by restriction of type of work and hours of work.
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION AND COLLECTIVE BARGAINING
Employers shall recognize and respect the right of employees to freedom of association and collective bargaining.
HEALTH, SAFETY, AND WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT
Employers shall provide a safe and healthy workplace setting to prevent accidents and injury to health arising out of, linked with, or occurring in the course of work or as a result of the operation of employers’ facilities. Employers shall adopt responsible measures to mitigate negative impacts that the workplace has on the environment.
Employers shall uphold the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour.
HOURS OF WORK
Employers shall not require workers to work more than the regular and overtime hours allowed by the law of the country where the workers are employed. The regular working week shall not exceed 48 hours and the sum of regular and overtime hours in a week shall not exceed 60 hours. All overtime work shall be consensual. 24 hours off in seven consecutive days of work is upheld.
Every worker has a right to compensation for a regular work week that is sufficient to meet the workers’ basic needs and provide some discretionary income. Employers shall pay at least the minimum wage or the appropriate prevailing wage, whichever is higher, comply with all legal requirements on wages, and provide any fringe benefits required by law or contract. Where compensation does not meet workers’ basic needs and provide some discretionary income, each employer shall work to take appropriate actions that seek to progressively realize a level of compensation that does.
TRANSPARENCY & TRACEABILITY
Supply chain transparency and traceability must be in place to identify risk and mitigate non-compliance of applicable laws and regulations.
Approach to non-compliance must be one of continuous improvement which first seeks to remedy the situation through collaboration. Where there is continued evidence of no commitment to remedy the situation, an exit strategy from the relationship must be undertaken.
Egregious violations to this code of conduct must be reported to NZM within 48hrs of identification by any stakeholder. NZM reserve the right to determine the severity and impact of egregious violations which occur at any point of the supply chain where wool fibre has been supplied by NZM. In the event that an egregious violation is proved to have occurred, NZM reserve the right to cease all business.
Who sells ZQ accredited wool?
ZQ fibre is available exclusively through the New Zealand Merino Company and selected supply chain partners.
ZQ wool is sourced through direct supply contracts and is priced to ensure the economic sustainability of growers, supply chain partners and the retail brand.
For our grower suppliers, we drive value by creating consumer demand for wool brands at retail. Growers then realise this value through choices for optimising the value of their sheep products. Want to join us in the transformation of the sheep industry from faceless commodities to premium brands globally? If you're a grower wondering how, contact us or your area manager today.
Enjoy the certainty and confidence that comes from guaranteed supply and price. Traditional wool is traded as a commodity at auction. With commodities come huge boom bust price fluctuations. The ZQ model offers more sustainable solutions including direct fibre supply contracts based on fair prices that both the grower and retail brand can work with. This provides price certainty, guarantee of supply, enhanced quality through 'fit-for-purpose' consignments, and traceability.
We partner with world renowned companies that specialise in what they do; for example the scouring and top making, spinning, knitting, weaving, or garment manufacture of ZQ wool fibre.
Talk to us to find out how to access the finest ZQ wool products or fibre.
ZQ operates as a business extension, giving greater depth to business with expertise specific to each brand. We want to make your business look good! Our simple mandate: enhance our partners' brands and create loyal advocates. Design 'thinkering' and creative wizardry drive business and brand growth. We help your brand exhibit its best side.
One of the first things you do when you set about differentiating a product is determine what makes it special; what's the magic? ZQ has built up a comprehensive repository of attribute and benefit information that can help consumers understand your products. Our team of scientists will do their best to answer your technical queries. If they don't know, they'll find out.
Talk to us to see how our wool experts can creatively contribute to your brand story.
Merino wool - a noble history
Merino is a regal breed of sheep famous for its fine, soft wool (usually referred to as fibre) which was historically gifted between generations as it once was between kings.
The oldest surviving sheep breed in the world, the merino dates back to 500BC. The majestic and noble merino originated in Spain and later flourished in France and Germany. By the 17th Century the merino was so highly prized that it was an offence punishable by death for anyone to attempt to export one from Spain. The royal houses of England, Saxony, Hungary and France all established royal merino flocks, thus contributing greatly to the merino’s development.
As with so much of New Zealand’s history, Captain James Cook is credited with first introducing sheep to New Zealand. They were merino sheep. Forty years later the Reverend Samuel Marsden brought to New Zealand the first real flock. Bred from pure Spanish merino these sheep were given to him by King George III of England in appreciation of a fine merino wool suit. The merino has thrived in the bracing mountainous air of New Zealand’s rugged and spectacular high country environment, ever since.
What types of wool are there?
Wool is classified by the thickness of its fibers. This thickness is measured in microns; one micron is equal to 0.001 mm. The lower the number, the finer the micron and the softer the wool.
SUPER FINE: BELOW 17.5 MICRON FIBRE
These are very fine wool fibres that are silky soft, making them perfect for next-to-skin clothing and suiting.
FINE: 17.5-25 MICRON FIBRE
This wool is still very soft, yet slightly stronger and more durable, and is used in activewear clothing and classic fashion.
MID-MICRON: 25-40 MICRON FIBRE
This type of wool is used for upholstery and heavy outer clothing layers like jackets.
STRONG: 40+ MICRON
This robust wool is snug yet durable enough to be made into luxurious and comfortable, hard-wearing carpets.
Common wool terms
Greasy Wool: Wool shorn from the sheep and therefore not yet washed or cleaned.
Crimp: The natural waviness of the wool fibre.
Shearing: A haircut for sheep.
Staple: The length of a lock of shorn wool.
Classing: Individually assessing and grading the fleece off the sheep, by hand, sorting into categories, based on fibre diameter and type.
The ZQ team
At the heart of what we do are our people. Good ones. ZQ is a small but nimble team with great depth of expertise in broad areas, bringing together the credible and the incredible.
MARKETING & CREATIVE
RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT
FINANCE & ADMINISTRATION
The New Zealand Merino Company Limited
Level 2, 123 Victoria Street
PO Box 25-160