Two centuries ago, our very first products included woollen ‘scouring’ blankets made using the fleece of local sheep, sold to our local hospital in Elgin. Today, the fibres we use are among the world's finest, sourced from Australia, Afghanistan, China, Mongolia and Peru. Most of our products are made from fibre we have bought ourselves, and we are working to move all our fibre purchases to animal welfare certified sources. We also buy yarn from other specialist yarn suppliers in Europe. Where this is the case, we will be encouraging those suppliers to adopt the same or equivalent standards.
In Mongolia, the traditional nomadic herding techniques associated with Cashmere goats centre on genuine love and respect for the animals. Free-roaming animals enjoy vast expanses of land and rolling plateaus, and dedicated herders strategically move their animals, homes and families, season after season.
In the Inner Mongolia region of China, cashmere goats are now normally kept on large farms. These animals are still allowed to range over very large distances compared to farms in other parts of the world.
To provide increased confidence that animal welfare has been prioritised in our cashmere production, we are moving to buy our cashmere from sources certified by the Sustainable Fibre Alliance. We made our first purchases of SFA certified cashmere during a pilot program in 2020 and, as capacity increases, we will increase our purchases from certified sources. In 2021 we aim to purchase 25% of our fibre from SFA certified sources.
Johnstons of Elgin is a founding member of the Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA), a non-profit organisation working with the extended Cashmere supply chain from herders to retailers. The SFA works with communities in Mongolia to provide training, restore grassland and help ensure animal welfare. Here, we invite you to meet the herders and gain an insight into life in the Mongolian mountains.
Animal welfare is of the utmost importance to the herders. Herder Buyandelger explains, ‘Herds grow when there is love and respect.’
Experienced herder Khandsuren enjoys the dairy farming aspect of her job and always makes time for a bit of self-care.
Twelve-year-old Gonchig dreams of becoming a herder and a racehorse trainer. He shares a special relationship with his herder Grandmother.
Cashmere production is a family business, but children are encouraged to fulfil their studies before deciding to follow in their parent’s footsteps.
Horses are an essential part of life here – 'nature provides'.
Children are given animals to care for from a young age, to teach them compassion.
We share a long history with the softest, highest quality Australian merino wool. The first merino sheep were introduced to Australia in 1797, the same year Johnstons of Elgin was established. We continue to support the Australian merino-growing industry, helping to maintain the economy in an area where the land is best suited to this use. As merino sheep produce and shed a new fleece every year, it is very much part of a natural life cycle.
We are committed to buying RWS certified fibre for the yarn we make, and we are working with our suppliers of other yarns to follow suit. The RWS is a voluntary global standard that addresses sheep's welfare and the land they graze on. RWS certification provides complete traceability of wool. It confirms that farms follow land management methods to protect soil health and biodiversity and practice holistic respect for the sheep's welfare.
The practise of mulesing has attracted much publicity. While mulesing can be avoided in some regions, in others, it is the best defence against blowfly infestations which would otherwise cause severe pain and even death in sheep. Since 2019 we have only bought wool from non-mulesed flocks or where mulesing happens with appropriate pain relief. From 2021, our move to buying only RWS certified wool means that all of the wool fibre we buy is now non-mulesed.
The Five Freedoms are devised and upheld by leading animal welfare organisations, including The Royal Society of Protection of Cruelty to Animals and the Chief Veterinary Officer in the UK and worldwide. The Campaign for Wool also supports them. The five freedoms are:
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