Welcome to the SFA’s annual highlights where we look back and reflect on our journey over the past year!
2023 has been both busy and productive, seeing us reach significant milestones and growth whilst striving towards more responsible impacts at every step. Let’s dive into the key highlights that have defined this impactful year…
A Year of Progress & Collaboration
From ground-breaking conferences to transformative launches, this year has been a whirlwind of activity for the SFA. We’ve proudly welcomed 14 new members in 2023, bringing our total membership to 64, representing a global collaboration across 13 countries. Each member contributes valuable insights, fostering a collective commitment to advancing sustainability within the cashmere sector.
Mongolian Herder Organisations & Certified Farms in China
By year-end, we have 193 registered herder organisations in Mongolia, covering around 16,297 herder households, as well as 13,587 certified farms in China. This accounts for 1,322 tonnes of certified raw cashmere from Mongolia.
Revised SFA Cashmere Standard
A major highlight this year was the exciting launch of our revised SFA Cashmere Standard. This holistic global standard, published in January 2023, unites the previous regional Codes of Practice under five key principles: Effective Management, Decent Work, Biodiversity & Land Use, Animal Welfare, and Fibre Quality Improvement.
Previously due to come into effect in January 2024, the SFA Standards Team are now in the process of developing and improving the SFA Cashmere Standard through an extended consultation period with v2.0 due to be published in the latter part of 2024. To learn more, please read the SFA Cashmere Standard Statement of Intent here.
Introducing the Rangeland Stewardship Council
The Rangeland Stewardship Council (RSC) gained recognition and support with a series of talks at the annual Rangelands Without Borders Symposium in Idaho, USA, where seven speakers representing international organisations participated to help launch the RSC initiative and garner support from key stakeholders. A dedicated session for RSC was then held later in the year, during the Natural Fibre Connect (NFC) conference in Biella, Italy to launch and provide updates regarding the initiative to the wider natural fibre sector.
Projects in Mongolia & Afghanistan
The SFA Research Team has remained dedicated to our mission of driving positive change in natural fibre value chains by empowering herding communities, promoting responsible sourcing and rewarding more sustainable practices through various projects and programmes.
In Mongolia this year, our Landscape Verification Project, funded by ISEAL, focused on restoring degraded grasslands and safeguarding biodiversity.
Through engagement with local communities and stakeholders, the primary objective of this initiative was to develop a monitoring framework to measure progress towards environmental targets and achieve conservation goals and implement biodiversity measures.
Expanding our commitment, SFA has announced the start of our USAID-funded project in Afghanistan. As part of this 13-month project, we will be looking to build a programme of work and Country Guidelines for Afghanistan centring around the “One-Health” approach of humans-animals-environment to develop and implement the programme on the ground.
By doing so, we hope to create better social, environmental, and animal welfare support whilst understanding the current issues surrounding the country, as well as building communities and peace through sustainable development and ensuring that no-one is left behind.
A project of this scale will take some time and the SFA will not be looking to certify any products during this period. The programme aims to reach 5,000 farmers, with a focus on 30% female farmers.
Working Collaboratively Together
In fostering unity across the cashmere supply chain, the SFA orchestrated impactful conferences throughout the year.
In February, we co-organised the Cashmere Connect conference in Biella, Italy in partnership with Natural Fibre Connect (NFC), the Schneider Group, the Cashmere & Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute (CCMI), and LVMH. The first of its kind conducted in Europe, the event welcomed stakeholders from every level of the supply chain, from herders to final products, offering insightful discussions on sustainability, engaging workshops, and illuminating factory tours.
In early September, herders convened for the yearly SFA Mongolia conference in Ulaanbaatar, bringing together over 150 in-person attendees from across the country. This unique event was organised by the herders themselves, supported by the SFA and the Ministry of Agriculture and Light Industry of Mongolia (MoFALI). Concluding the event was the highly anticipated Herder Sustainability Awards, a presentation of nominated herders and herder cooperatives celebrating their achievements over the past year across six main award categories.
Towards the end of September, the second edition of the Natural Fibre Connect (NFC) conference brought together a global fibre community of cashmere, mohair, wool, and alpaca in Biella, Italy, with over 350 in-person participants and 1000 virtual attendees. The event focused on a collaboration across sectors with a key aim of providing herder and grower perspectives with a collective mission of a “World with more natural fibres by 2030”.
Moreover, the National Young Herders Conference in Mongolia at the beginning of October witnessed the participation of over 800 young herders.
Hosted by the Mongolian Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry (MoFALI), this gathering highlighted the significance of the SFA Cashmere Standard and supply chain in shaping the future of the sector. Through these conferences, SFA continues to play a pivotal role in bringing diverse actors together, promoting sustainability and collaboration.
This year has seen many exciting announcements, from the adoption of a fully segregated Chain of Custody model ensuring 100% of the cashmere used in the end-product is SFA-certified to publishing the Chain of Custody Global Guidelines v3.0 and subsequent updates of v3.1. Public consultation has also opened for our draft Chain of Custody Standard where we are seeking feedback from stakeholders and the public. This process reflects our commitment to transparency and inclusivity – please learn more and participate here.
Following the past two years of collaboration with Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs), we have made significant strides and developments. This has led us to the recent release of the SFA Assurance and Certification Manual v1.0, where we have refined requirements for CABs.
As we wrap up an extraordinary year, we are proud of the impacts that we have made, a testament to the collective efforts of our partners, herders, members, and wider communities.
Thank you for joining us on this journey towards a more sustainable future. Here’s to another year of growth, collaboration, and positive change in 2024!
SFA COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER
20 December 2023