New era begins at Australian Wool Innovation
Newly appointed Australian Wool Innovation chairman Colette Garnsey (OAM) has signalled a new era for the peak wool industry body, telling shareholders the company is committed to greater engagement with Australian woolgrowers.
Ms Garnsey used her speech to today’s Annual General Meeting to signal that it was a time of change at AWI.
“Our priority is to be a company that is engaged with all of its stakeholders - woolgrowers and shareholders, of course, but also the Government, farmers’ groups, the media, our supporters and, yes, those who hold a more critical view of our performance,” Ms Garnsey told the meeting.
“All have a stake in the future of the company, all want the very best for the wool industry - and all deserve a say and to be heard.”
Ms Garnsey told the meeting one of AWI’s highest priorities is responding to, and actioning, the 82 recommendations from the Review of Performance commissioned by the Federal Government.
“We are already 33 per cent of the way through the implementation process,” she said.
“For example, since the Review, we have introduced a board skills matrix in the 2018 Annual Report that will help ensure we have the right mix of skills and experience on our board. And we have appointed a general manager of operations - a new role that will allow our CEO to focus on more strategic activities.
“Of the 82 recommendations in the Report, there are 75 which we have accepted and actioned. Of the remaining ones, there are two that are the subject of continued negotiations with the Department. There are also five we expect to put to shareholders at a general meeting in mid-March after a period of consultation.”
Turning to the results of WoolPoll 2018, Ms Garnsey said AWI was encouraged and humbled that the vast majority of woolgrowers saw the value in AWI’s work and were prepared to contribute towards the company’s R&D and marketing efforts on their behalf.
“But do not doubt for a minute that we have not heard the message that we must do more to earn and retain the trust and confidence of our shareholders,” Ms Garnsey told shareholders.
“We are determined to maintain the momentum in our international marketing efforts and in our investments in R&D.
“We must give you the confidence that your levies are being invested effectively and efficiently. AWI must continue to run lean, with every dollar spent wisely and every dollar accounted for.
“All stakeholders can expect to see and hear more from me and my AWI colleagues as we seek to unite the wool industry behind a common goal: to help woolgrowers be their best and get the best returns for their hard work.
“Consultation, of course, is pointless without transparency and I want an AWI that is open and accountable and today is a step in that process.”
In his address to shareholders, AWI CEO Mr Stuart McCullough pointed to the record highs hit by wool prices in the recent months.
“I am delighted that in 2017-18 growers were able to reap the benefits of an increase in the average EMI of 23 per cent from the previous year,” Mr McCullough said.
“We recognise the drought conditions facing many woolgrowers, and we are committed to investing your levies effectively and efficiently to deliver results for all woolgrowers.
“Investment in research and development, and extension by AWI in its Sheep Production and Woolgrower Services portfolios, increased by 27 per cent last year, delivering a range of outputs to help woolgrowers improve their on-farm productivity and profitability. This includes ongoing investment in Lifetime Ewe Management training, which resulted in more than 4,300 growers undertaking the hands-on course.
“In the off-farm R&D area, we have added to the growing number of research findings supporting the health and wellbeing benefits of wool products. And we are working with leading brands such as adidas and Max Mara in new product developments.
“Our Marketing portfolio has continued to partner with premium brands and strategically invest in targeted campaigns – through both digital and traditional channels – to help create demand for Australian wool amongst consumers in key markets globally.
“The sports, outdoor and athleisure markets are especially exciting markets that are helping drive up demand for Merino wool. We have been increasing collaboration with leading manufacturers and brands in these sectors to promote the premium natural benefits of wool as a performance fibre.”
Mr McCullough reiterated the comments of AWI’s Chairman, reaffirming the company’s commitment to consultation with growers and to continuing to be being transparent, lean and efficient in their operations.
“AWI is acutely aware of its direct accountability to woolgrowers. We are committed to listening to woolgrowers, to hearing and actioning their feedback and to working together to build a stronger industry for everyone in the supply chain,” Mr McCullough outlined.
“We will continue to work hard to build resilience into our research, development and marketing investments. AWI will continue to work hard to put the interests of woolgrowers first.”
AWI is a not-for-profit company that invests in research and development (R&D) and marketing to increase the long-term profitability of Australian woolgrowers.
AWI is funded primarily through a wool levy paid by woolgrowers and a matching contribution from the Federal Government for eligible R&D activities that are capped at 0.5 per cent of the value of gross national value of wool production.
For more information about AWI, head to www.wool.com