A new partnership between a Canterbury-based wool company and one of the world's largest apparel and footwear companies is estimated to be worth more than a quarter of a billion dollars.
The New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) and VF Corporation have formalised a framework that will grow the market for ZQ certified merino wool.
ZQ natural fibre is the world's leading ethical wool with growers having to adhere to the requirements set out in the ZQ Grower Standard.
VF Corporation, whose brand portfolio includes iconic outdoor brands like icebreaker, Smartwool, The North Face, Timberland and Napapijri, has committed to a sourcing framework for the long-term supply of the ZQ certified merino wool.
NZM chief executive John Brakenridge said the agreed framework was one of the biggest wool partnerships in New Zealand history and is estimated to be worth more than a quarter of a billion dollars for ZQ farmers over the next five years.
"The long-term wool contracts offered to NZM's ZQ farmers, such as the three-year contracts with Smartwool and the world's first 10-year contract with icebreaker, mean farmers can produce 'fit-for-purpose' fibre.
"This sends a strong message to produce higher volumes of fine and sustainable wool, and also encourages those considering a shift to finer microns," he said.
He said the agreement came at a time when farmers were under increased pressure to lead the world with their environmental practices.
"This is a clear signal from the market that farmers will be recognised for their leadership in sustainability,"
Senior executives from VF Corporation were in the country last week to meet with farmers, and to finalise the key elements of the agreement.
VF Corporation's vice president, global procurement Tom Conneen said the partnership aligned with the company's values and commitment to positively impacting the global community.
"Globally we want to power movements of sustainable and active lifestyles for the betterment of people and our planet.
"This agreement will be a great example of us leading with our commitment to ZQ-certified merino wool and the people within the ZQ community, " he said.
VF Corporation and NZM are also working together on a range of projects and initiatives that will help inform future practices and verify sustainable production of merino wool via the ZQ programme.
In November NZM won the Supreme Award at the New Zealand International Business Awards.
The new framework is an extension of the existing contracts NZM has with VF Corporation.