The Sustainable Fibre Alliance

August 2019

Johnstons of Elgin is one of three founding members of the Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA), a non-profit international organisation, formed in 2015 to work with the extended cashmere supply chain, from herders to retailers. With a focus on restoring grasslands, ensuring the well-being of animals, and securing herders’ livelihoods, the SFA funds specific programmes in Mongolia to train communities and promote sustainability. Our Chief Executive sits on the SFA board and is an active participant in many SFA initiatives.

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The work of the SFA is critical because global warming is having a disproportionate effect on the climate in Mongolia with a temperature rise of 1.8 degrees celsius already. The rapidly increasing temperatures combined with increasing animal numbers is putting increasing strain on the grassland.

The SFA works exclusively in Mongolia where traditional nomadic herding is used to raise combined flocks of sheep and goats alongside yak, camels or horses. Traditional herding methods are not only best for the land, but are also the basis of Mongolian culture. We are mindful of this, encouraging best practices and progression through education and sustainability reward programmes.

Sustainability Training in Schools

Working through the SFA in 2018, Johnstons of Elgin founded the first course in Sustainable Pasture Management, with the education authority in the Khenti Region of Mongolia. This course teaches sustainable herding methods to the children of nomadic herders, the next generation of herders. The programme builds on centuries-old nomadic herding practices, where mixed herds of sheep and goats are moved seasonally between pastures.

Using specially developed textbooks modern regenerative farming theories are incorporated into a foundation of cultural traditions. Being the custodians of their environment has always been central to Mongolian nomadic culture, and the Sustainable Pasture Management course supports this, with 432 pupils graduating in the first year. In 2020, the programme will be extended to the whole of the Khenti region and to a further region beyond.

Sustainability Awards

We also present our own Johnstons of Elgin Sustainability Awards, with financial incentives, to the best herders and communities. These awards are designed to ensure that best practice is recognized, rewarded and encouraged. They receive a huge amount of attention in Mongolia, increasing the focus on sustainability issues and letting herders understand that global consumers stand beside them in their efforts on sustainability.

  1. Best Overall Co-operative
  2. Best Co-operative for Animal Welfare
  3. Best Co-operative for Land Management
  4. Best Herder Trainer
  5. Best Female Herder
  6. Best Young Herder

Our work in cashmere sustainability through the SFA and our own programmes remains a strong, ongoing commitment. If collectively we can protect the grasslands of Mongolia this will defend a land mass bigger than France, Spain and Germany combined along with diverse and unique plants, animals and a community with a way of life which has been perfected over hundreds of years.

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