As part of the Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA), we work closely with Mongolian Cashmere goat-herders to address these environmental issues in the spirit of their own culture and traditions.
With a focus on restoring grasslands, ensuring animals' well-being, and securing herders' livelihoods, the SFA funds specific programmes in Mongolia to train communities and promote sustainability.
The SFA's work is critical because global warming is having a disproportionate effect on Mongolia's climate, with a temperature rise of 1.8 degrees Celsius already. The rapidly rising temperatures combined with growing animal numbers is putting increasing strain on the grassland.
We established the first course in Sustainable Pasture Management, managed for us by the SFA, in 2019. Called “Haraacai” (the Mongolian word for swallow), this course teaches sustainable herding methods to nomadic herders' children. It combines modern sustainability theories with the traditional skills passed down through generations embedded within their centuries-old nomadic culture.
Specially developed textbooks combine contemporary regenerative theories with the traditional methods of Mongolian nomadic culture. The course supports the herders’ view of themselves as custodians of their environment, and a total of 432 students graduated in the first year.
Geography teacher Saranzul was raised by a herding family in the Khentii province. She returned to Khentii after studying at university and is now also a herder. ‘In Mongolia, if you live in the countryside, your life depends on animals. I am very happy that the children of herding families can be educated about herding life,’ she said. ‘Also, since this course has started, our children have gained great knowledge about the environment.’ In Mongolia, traditional nomadic herding practices raise combined flocks of sheep and goats alongside yak, camels and horses. Children in Mongolia attend residential boarding schools due to the distance required to travel from home to school. The Covid-19 pandemic prevented face to face lessons from continuing, so last year, the young herders' education programme moved to an online format. In-person learning will resume later this year, and, in time, we plan to extend our training initiatives, helping to build a future for the next generation of herders.
In 2018 and 2019, we presented the first Johnstons of Elgin Sustainability Awards, with financial incentives, to the best herders and communities. These awards are designed to ensure that best practice is recognised, rewarded and encouraged. They receive a tremendous amount of attention in Mongolia, increasing the focus on sustainability issues and helping herders understand that global consumers stand beside them in their sustainability efforts.
In 2020, the awards could not go ahead due to the travel restrictions imposed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Our intention is that from 2021, these awards will be sponsored by a group of brands - including Johnstons of Elgin - so that the whole industry can participate in the promotion of sustainability in Mongolia.
We uphold some of the textile industry's highest quality standards for our Cashmere, and traceability can be incredibly challenging. The SFA is developing a chain of custody model for tracing fibre from SFA-certified sources along the supply chain, which now traces certified Cashmere all the way to the final product.
We are now backing SFA certification, and our goal in 2021 is to buy 25% of our Cashmere from certified sources, increasing to 50% next year, 75% in 2023 and reaching 100% by 2024.
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 landmass approximately five times as large as the United Kingdom along with diverse and unique plants, animals and a community with a way of life that has been perfected over hundreds of years.
We pledge that by 2024, as larger quantities become available, all of our cashmere will be purchased from SFA sources.
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.
We now only buy wool that has been Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) certified. 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 and confirms that farms follow land management methods that protect soil health and biodiversity.
Within our Scottish vertical mills, we have absolute control over all our processes and are mindful of our impact on the environment. Our support of RWS allows us to go further – right back to the beginning of the supply chain – to provide transparency and help to nurture the earth.
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