Staff profile: Jason Everson - Opening up the possibilities for wool
After finishing school Jason Everson went into banking, learning the basics of finance in New Zealand before heading overseas in the mid 1990s, making his way to the City of London, where he specialised in International trade finance.
“Wool exporters were important customers. They needed a lot of money to fund their wool purchases to ensure growers could get paid 11 days after the drop of the hammer at auction. Part of my role was to look after the bank’s wool clients, assisting with the likes of foreign exchange, letters of credit, telegraphic transfers and financing of transactions. That was my initial connection to the wool industry.
“When I returned to New Zealand in 2000, that banking experience helped me into a job with wool exporter Bloch & Behrens, and an opportunity for a career change. In banking you have a specific function, whereas in the wider business world you need to know a broad range of things. I learnt more in my first year with Bloch & Behrens than in all my banking career,” says Jason.
PGG Wrightson bought Bloch & Behrens in 2008 and these days Jason is PGG Wrightson Wool Product and Innovation Manager based in Christchurch. Product development is an important part of his role, looking to explore and develop opportunities to put wool into products where it doesn’t currently exist.
“While most kiwis understand the wool proposition and the beauty of wool products, beyond New Zealand, into the global marketplace, is where demand needs to increase.
“Wool currently makes up less than one per cent of the global textile market. If we could somehow double that to two per cent, the world doesn’t have enough sheep to meet the demand.
“While traditional end uses for New Zealand strong wool, such as carpet, rugs, upholstery and blankets, will continue to be hugely important, innovation has the potential to spark greatly increased demand,” says Jason.
Lateral thinking opens intriguing possibilities, he reckons.
“Taking one possible example, imagine if wool became a component of car tyres. Billions of car tyres are made each year: what if they were made with or filled with wool rather than air? Among its other key attributes, wool is fire retardant, biodegradable, static resistant and absorbs noise. Those qualities, utilised in innovative ways, are an amazing opportunity to rewrite a tyre manufacturer’s marketing story, and the beauty of a car tyre is that it needs replacing every couple of years.
“Another fun, and surprising fact: the world’s biggest tyre manufacturer is Lego.
“Looking at things from a different perspective can sometimes take you in a completely new direction. I’m not saying it is possible to use wool in car tyres: the end use may be something else entirely, though with wool’s particular qualities, and the scale of some of the universal products we all take for granted that use components that negatively impact the environment, if there were a way to substitute wool for those synthetics, prospects for growers, and our sector overall would change immensely,” he says.
In 2014 Jason took a spell from PGG Wrightson, resigning to help set up grower-owned entity Wools of New Zealand.
“I gained valuable skills and experience that helped round out my overall wool industry knowledge, then was fortunate enough to return to PGG Wrightson in 2018,” he says.
A self-confessed ‘tech freak,’ Jason is always looking to embrace new technology to what is a very traditional industry. Applying a similar future-focused theme, he is also on the wool technical advisory group for the New Zealand Farm Assurance Programme (NZFAP).
“Working with the meat industry, we have helped develop the world’s first national assurance programme for wool, which should position New Zealand growers ahead of international competition in future,” he says.
Creating opportunities and relationships between international brands and wool growers is another rewarding part of his role.
“Grower origin stories hold particular appeal for many multinationals, especially the owners of luxury brands. Finding the right grower to supply the product and making sure the story rings true can require plenty of work behind the scenes, though when that comes off it is very satisfying,” says Jason.
Outside work, sport takes up a fair amount of Jason’s time.
“I have been active in several sports, and one major highlight was in 2005 when I represented New Zealand at Australian Rules Football (AFL).
“When I was a child my family moved to Australia with my father’s job, and lived in Melbourne, which is where I first learnt the sport, though we moved back to New Zealand when I was 14, from which point I always played rugby. Fast forward to the early 2000s, I started playing AFL again in Christchurch, where there is a small competition. I found I could still kick and catch a ball, and managed to make it into the 2005 New Zealand team that played in a world tournament, excluding Australia. We played the likes of the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan, and made it to the final, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, played as a curtain raiser to one of the big AFL games at the time.
“We played Papua New Guinea in the grand final. AFL is pretty big over there, and their players were like rockets. However, we managed to win, which was a wonderful experience. To sit in the changing rooms, walk out to the iconic MCG, punch out a haka, then become world champions was an amazing day,” he says.
These days much of Jason’s sporting focus goes into supporting his daughter, at high school level at Christchurch Girls High, where Jason is vice chair of the school netball club.