It’s not unusual for Jeanne Carver to be juggling several things at once. But on this August morning, the founder of Shaniko Wool Company is negotiating her phone, one shoulder hooked up to a post-surgical ice machine, discussing the intricacies of the Responsible Wool Standard—and why knitters should care.
Wool geeks and fashion buyers might already be familiar with the Textile Exchange’s standards, which include certifications for recycled and organic materials as well as for down, wool, alpaca, and mohair. Unlike vague marketing terms such as eco-friendly, sustainable, or green, these standards give brands and their customers peace of mind, knowing that the garments, home goods, and craft yarn they buy have been third-party audited for animal, land, and worker welfare.
To receive RWS certification, Imperial Stock Ranch and the ranches joining Shaniko Wool Company demonstrated the welfare of not only the animals and the natural environment of their ranches but also their workers. Photo courtesy of Shaniko Wool Company
Beginning the Responsible Wool Journey
In 2017, the Carver family’s Imperial Stock Ranch near the ghost town of Shaniko, Oregon, having served first as a Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) pilot site, became the first RWS-certified ranch in the world, heralding a seismic shift in global wool sourcing. Embraced by brands such as the COS, Patagonia, Madewell, Everlane, and Stella McCartney, among others, retailers are seeking to distance themselves from claims of animal cruelty and other crimes against people and the planet. As of the most recent reporting in 2021, 756 farms worldwide had been RWS-certified, the vast majority in South Africa, South America and New Zealand.
Though Jeanne sometimes describes herself as a simple ranch wife, she holds an advanced degree in biomechanics. She and her late husband, Dan, ran Imperial Stock Ranch according to the regenerative agriculture practices he adopted decades ago. She is a keen observer of sheep and wool industry trends, and she has the uncanny ability to put her finger to the wind and create bellwether businesses based on her findings.