If you pay attention to any sort of news or social media, you’ve heard a lot about climate change. Chances are, you’ve become a lot more conscious about the things you buy. For example: you’ve purchased a sweater, now you pay more attention to what kind of material is, is it harmful or not to our mother earth, is it ethical or not. When we think about these questions, we are practicing a sustainable mindset. We can take this mindset and ask the question: Is it possible to have sustainable cashmere?
Sustainability is a holistic approach that considers ecological, social, and economic dimensions of business. It recognizes that these factors must be considered together to find lasting prosperity. When considering the cashmere industry, it has certainly seen a lot of growth.
The cashmere industry represents roughly $4 billion dollars in the luxury goods market. This growth and demand are a wonderful development for cashmere herders and producers. But it also raises issues with how we can sustain this level of development without degrading the land. Currently, the cashmere industry is one that has every potential to be sustainable and has made great strides towards achieving this goal. Let’s look at one area in which cashmere is becoming sustainable- desertification!
What is Desertification, How Does it Affect Sustainable Cashmere?
In Mongolia, herders traditionally guide goats to various grazing pastures throughout the year. This constant change allows the land the ability to experience rejuvenation after the goats leave. As the cashmere market has grown, there has been a greater need to have more goats raised. This increase in the population further strains what the land can sustain as pastures are not regrowing fast enough. If these trends continue, it may strip the land bare of good grazing opportunities for the goats. This means fewer goats can be raised, and they cannot have proper nutrition. The result is that the goats will not produce the same quality of cashmere.
The challenge to make cashmere sustainable on a global level is difficult. But it is not impossible. There have been several initiatives taken to create a more sustainable business model. Let’s look at two of these initiatives:
The second issue is that some cashmere producers have left behind traditional harvesting practices to speed up the process. This usually means they have cut some corners or the well-being of the goats has been forgotten about. There are a few ways this happens.
1) The Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA)
The SFA’s effort is best in their own words, “We believe that for cashmere production to be truly sustainable, we must look at the entire system. This includes environmental impact, herder well-being and animal welfare.” They have partnered with various cashmere companies and the Mongolian government to help in this endeavor. This organization seeks to meet their goals by working with governments and companies to educate herders on sustainable practices to protect both the animals and the land from abuse. The SFA has introduced an accreditation system to ensure that companies are following sustainable and ethical practices. This system follows two codes of conduct, one for animal husbandry and the other for proper rangeland stewardship. By educating herders on traditional and proper land conservation practices, the goats will have lush and healthy grazing pastures for years to come!
2) The Sustainable Cashmere Project
Within Mongolia there remains a strong adherence to traditional cashmere goat farming. Traditional practices such as following a grazing pattern and hand combing are central to ensuring that cashmere is an ethical and sustainable practice. In traditional practices, the goats will graze and travel the land which allows for regrowth of the land. However, with the rising numbers of goats sustainable grazing becomes challenging. If the pastures do not have enough time to regrow, it exacerbates the risk of desertification. One way to combat this has been using NASA satellites to help herders to identify places that are suitable for grazing. You can find out more about this use of technology below.
By utilizing technology to allow herders to be accountable to the land is a powerful way in which we can ensure that cashmere is sustainable. It also allows herders to remain connected to their roots by sustaining the land that helps give them their livelihood and lifestyle.
At Yavar, we want to be a part of the solution, not the problem. When we partner with a cashmere producer, we choose the ones that have met an accreditation from the government or organizations like the SFA. We strongly believe in safeguarding our environment, the animals, and Mongolia traditions for future generations. There are a lot of things happening within the world that weight heavy on our heart, but we are hopeful for all the good initiatives happening in response to that weight. You can shop for sustainable products here and help support sustainable practices!