Archive for the ‘Updates’ Category

What Does Decent Work Mean to Women Herders in Rural Mongolia?

Posted by Katy Edwards

In 2022, on behalf of the SFA, María E. Fernández-Giménez with the assistance of Tugsbuyan Bayarbat, Chantsallkham Jamsranjav and Tungalag Ulambayar hosted a series of participatory workshops with women herders from Mongolia’s Arkhangai and Bayankhongor provinces. Discussing what decent work meant to them, the sessions looked at how women herders relate to their work – characterised by a connection with nature, their herd, the family unit, their community and the wider Mongolian population.

What does decent work mean?

Broadly speaking, it relates to employees earning a sufficient income from the work they do in a fair and safe environment, and while it might have different meanings depending on geography, culture and economic development, the term decent work is somewhat rigid in its definition. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines decent work as “productive work for women and men in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity”, with the four pillars of their Decent Work Agenda  – employment creation, social protection, rights at work, and social dialogue – pivotal in the development of The United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs); Goal Eight is Decent work and Economic Growth.

Access to decent work is one of the Five Global Principles of the SFA’s Cashmere Standard and ensures ‘fair hiring practices and working conditions, equality in wages, the protection of traditional communities, the prevention of child labour, gender equality and the promotion of health and safety’. The Principle is also guided by the eradication of forced labour, while ensuring equal pay and decision-making roles for women. Developed inline with the ILO’s own definition, the SFA’s Decent Work Principle often applies to communities that live in remote, rural locations which can be a regulatory challenge. However, conversations across the supply chain are important in addressing such challenges, as they capture the realities of herders’ working lives. They also provide vital insight for standards such as the SFA’s by contextualising the nuances of herders’ own definitions of decent work within their day-to-day – something that might not necessarily be captured by international development agencies.

Conversations from the workshops highlighted two overarching themes: the definition of what decent work meant to the women in a practical sense, and how the societal expectations impact the women’s access to it. The facilitators used themes inline with, but not exclusive to, the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda to discuss their definition of decent work. This covered the women’s opinions on meaningful and productive work in healthy and safe environments, as well as freedom from abuse, harassment and discrimination, social protection and security, social dialogue, cooperation and opportunities for professional development and learning.

It’s widely accepted that herding in Mongolia is more than just a livelihood, it’s a way of life that brings meaning, a sense of identity, culture and tradition – it’s an occupation that creates feelings of dignity, pride and purpose – especially when the work is valued and respected by the wider society; an important component of the global understanding of decent work. Discussing the position of herders in modern Mongolia, the participants noted how respect for herders and the herder lifestyle had dwindled in recent years, with young people increasingly opting to live in urban areas in pursuit of life away from rural pastoralism. According to The International Organization for Migration (IOM), this is a countrywide shift, with dramatic rural-to-urban migration raising the capital Ulaanbaatar’s population to almost 1.5 million – half of the entire country’s total population. With this migration, the women feared the loss of their culture and tradition, emphasising a lack of cultural education and a disconnect between those living rurally and in urban environments. The development of a more secure rural economy was just one of many suggestions the women made in reference to not only encouraging people back to the countryside, but also as a means to secure productive work and income year-round from their livestock. They also touched on the prospect of alternative rural employment as another solution. Interestingly, the women intrinsically linked decent work and productivity, raising a further five points that they thought vital to their access to both:

  • Stable and sufficient income from livestock. 
  • Access to the means of production (seasonal pasture lands, water and minerals, shelters and corrals (animal pens) and livestock).
  • Access to the knowledge and the information they needed to work.
  • Fair and timely pay for hired herders.
  • Protection from climate hazards.

It’s important to understand that cashmere is just one of several income streams for Mongolian herders who herd a mix of goats, sheep, cattle, camels and yaks – dependent on their geography. The mixed herds provide a range of produce ranging from cashmere fibre to meat and dairy, and generate seasonal income throughout the year. As Mongolian herders are predominantly reliant on this produce, access to resources and means of production is paramount to their access to decent work year round. A great example of this was discussed by the workshop participants from Arkhangai. The women spoke of their relative success in adding value to their produce through the production of ‘fancy’ aaruul (a traditional Mongolian curd cheese) which they sold directly to customers in the capital and other cities across Mongolia. They keenly noted that aaruul, along with sales from other such value-added dairy products, accounted for roughly 80% of their household income. In a later discussion regarding the production of value-added produce and their access to opportunities for professional development and learning, the women all strongly desired increased access to vocational training, forums and knowledge sharing in order to independently improve the earning potential of their produce.

Another important factor that sits front and centre of both international and more localised decent work agendas is the impact of climate change and the realities of its effect on rural pastoralists. With a changing climate, fragile ecosystems, such as those seen in Mongolia, are already dealing with the brunt of more extreme weather. According to Save the Children, Mongolia is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, with a significant rise in dzuds – catastrophic weather events when a drought in the warmer months is followed by extreme temperature drops and snowfall. In the past, dzuds were known to occur once every decade or so, however in recent years they have become much more common. The National Agency of Meteorology and the Environmental Monitoring (NAMEM) of Mongolia reported that as of February 2024, a total of 80% of the country has been in a dzud weather disaster, with iron- / glass-dzud hitting regions covering 58 soums, across 13 provinces of Mongolia. The snow fall, along with the fatally low temperatures, restricts livestocks’ access to food, creating significant challenges for herders. When discussing the impact of dzuds, long term weather forecasts was one way the participants said could help them in their preparations, with the groups all in agreement that such pre-warnings would allow them to stockpile hay for the animals, as well ensuring appropriate access to shelters.

While much of the discussions focused on the welfare of the land and livestock in the herder context, the women also spoke of the challenges they’d experienced with their own and other’s health and safety whilst working – a core component of the Decent Work Agenda. The ILO’s International Labour Standard on occupational safety and health states the importance of how ‘workers must be protected from sickness, disease and injury arising from their employment’. It also understands that this might not be the case for millions of workers worldwide – with some difficulties arising when the lines are blurred between the workplace and home and when income streams are seasonal. Using cashmere as an example, cashmere is harvested in the spring, over a course of a few months. Within that period, tens of millions of goats across the country are harvested for their fibre. This level of intensity can create a number of challenges with respect to health and safety, especially as the home and workplace, as previously mentioned, are one and the same. The women spoke about a number of issues including the importance of ‘safe and healthy working conditions that promote mental wellbeing and limit excess stress’ as well as ‘ensuring the work is appropriate for the ability and age of the person doing it’. The women, especially those from Arkhangai, expressed how taking time away from work and vacations played an important role in the reduction of workplace stress, especially as all the women agreed about the impact of their ‘triple labour burden’ – caring for the livestock, children and the elderly, the processing dairy products and housekeeping. It’s customary for children, especially adolescents, to support their family by helping with milking, cashmere harvesting and the processing of products from the animals, alongside caring for younger siblings. The workshop participants, worryingly, identified how children, especially boys, were increasingly being removed from school too soon in order to do so, thus not finishing their education. With respect to decent work, many of the women mentioned the importance of education for children, especially how the education of their children in soum centres (a community and commercial centres with access to facilities, education and commercial opportunities) played a significant role in their development. Soum centres have dormitories for children to attend school, however if those spaces are full, the women are expected to stay with the children, which was noted to potentially create marital stress. As the family and labour unit are the same, this can often lead to children being educated at home – another addition to the triple labour burden.

Another important factor raised by the participants was how the triple labour burden impacted their ability to access health care, due to time constraints along with a number of other obstacles. Some noted how health insurance was too expensive for them, while most of the women complained about how health care was not readily available, with doctors appointments difficult to obtain. They also discussed how they didn’t have confidence in the training of the bag (a smaller division of the soum) and soum doctors available to them – with many expressing worry about mis-diagnosis and dismissals of their symptoms. This, combined with their remote locations, presented a very real concern for the women, especially with respect to access to vaccinations, regular check ups and other preventative care and screenings.

In the context of community cooperatives and collectives, women across the various groups emphasised the critical need for organisations representing herders’ rights. These organisations would address pressing issues such as the loss of grazing lands, environmental degradation, inadequate access to health and veterinary services, and the absence of preschool facilities in remote rural areas. Particularly, they underscored the necessity for representation specifically tailored to women herders. Due to the triple labour burden the women highlighted the profound social isolation they sometimes experienced. They also expressed a desire for increased opportunities to participate in community and cultural events, seeking avenues for social connection and engagement. There was also a recurrent observation regarding the shift in herder culture towards individualism, which they saw to have eroded traditional forms of community solidarity, collective work, cooperation, and mutual support. While some communities still maintain these traditions, others have experienced a decline, impacting both local and global perspectives on accessing decent work opportunities. These observations underscore the importance of revitalising and preserving communal values to foster more inclusive and sustainable decent work for women herders.

The insights gleaned from discussions between the workshop facilitators and the women herders immediately shed light on something interesting. In terms of the ILO’s approach to decent work, which is categorised under somewhat rigid frameworks, the women herders held a more holistic perspective on what constitutes decent work. From their perspective, decent work relied heavily on the interdependent integration of human, environmental and livestock health and wellbeing.

The participants emphasised the importance of:

  • The health of the environment in which they do the work.
  • The health of the livestock on which their livelihoods depend, and which in turn depend on a healthy environment.
  • Human health and wellbeing – which is also linked to the two previous points.

These points prompt reflection on the potential gap between global standards and the realities and requirements of herders, especially women, in Mongolia’s countryside. However, it also offers an opportunity for organisations like the SFA, which use international standards to craft their own standards, to develop an approach to decent work that makes use of insights from both ends of the spectrum.

Learn more about how the SFA incorporates decent work practices into their standards here.

Lotti Blades-Barrett

8 March 2024

Dzud Hits Mongolia | Devastating Conditions for Livestock & Herders

Posted by Katy Edwards

The National Agency Meteorology and the Environmental Monitoring (NAMEM) of Mongolia reports that as of February 2024, a total of 80% of the country is in a “Dzud” weather disaster, with Iron / Glass Dzud hitting regions covering 58 soums, across 13 provinces.

According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) report on the 26th of February 2024, the loss of livestock reached 2.3 million, an 86% increase compared to the same period last year.

Map showing areas affected by Dzud in Mongolia and their severity level on the 10th February 2024.
Reference NAMEM.

What is Dzud?

Mainly occurring in steppe regions of central and east Asia, Dzud is a winter weather phenomenon in which deep snow, severe cold, or other conditions render forage unavailable or inaccessible, leading to high livestock mortality. Dzud is considered a disaster due to its effects on livestock populations that support the livelihoods of a third of Mongolia’s population.

Not just leading to a disastrous number of livestock loss, Dzud can also threaten human lives as it makes travel conditions and transportation impossible. Food, drink, fuel, medicine, and other necessities quickly become unreachable for a period beyond the regular supply reserves of households. The devastation it brings can have a turning impact on household livelihoods, as well as local and national economies.

There are many types of Dzud, from White Dzud and Cold Dzud to Black Dzud and
Hooves Dzud, each with their own extreme conditions and harsh weather affects.

Each type of Dzud brings its own extreme level of conditions that challenge herders beyond their provisions for already harsh Mongolian winters. Although not regular in occurrence, scientists documented changes in regional climate in the past 60 years and predict that Dzud will likely increase in frequency and magnitude with future atmospheric changes.

How does Dzud affect animals?

With this year’s disaster hitting especially hard, Mongolia is expected to see more snowfall throughout the beginning of March. With this, animal mortality will reach devastating numbers due to the lack of feed and water, combined with the extreme cold, as herders exhaust their winter reserves.

Records warn that a tough spring is likely to  follow these harsh Dzud conditions, with storms, blizzards, and floods causing a late arrival of fresh grass. Herders will need intense strength as they start to approach offspring season and prepare for already weakened survivor herds following the Dzud disaster.

How does Dzud affect people?

Herder communities and their families are physically affected by the Dzud with road blockades making it difficult to reach water, food, fuel, and to stock up on supplies. Additionally, being cut off from medical and emergency services can cause serious situations for those who need it.

With a shortage of cash on hand, many herders will try to restock these necessities by exploiting an advance sales payment for their upcoming cashmere harvest. Burdening to their already decreased harvest in the spring, this will affect them financially during the cashmere season with a loss on actual market price.

Besides livestock and financial loss, herders will suffer from stress and mental well-being as an outcome of these tough conditions. Especially young herders, who need moral support to cope with the loss and devastation. In many cases, herders face a total loss of livestock that will likely force many to migrate to urban settlements, adding to the already overpopulated slums and poverty in the city.

How can we help?

The Mongolia government, managed by the State Emergency Commission, began immediate response to the disaster situation by making roads accessible, distributing hays, fodders for animals, and necessary relief to herders. However, despite government measures and aid from international donor organisations, more assistance in parallel is needed to reach and support all households to mitigate animal and livestock losses effectively.

Utilising knowledge and previous experiences from reports such as “Lessons from the Dzud” (co-written by SFA founder Batkhishig Baival), we are informed through science on how best to adapt and increase resilience in these disastrous situations. The report recommends that short-term aid relief should link to sustainable long-term development support. In line with the recommendations presented in this report, the SFA has begun initiating immediate aid for SFA herder organisations in the regions that have been hit hardest. Through organised coordination with local governments and herder communities, the SFA Mongolia team begun distributing vital animal feed and supplies this week to six SFA herder organisations spread across three soums in the north-eastern provinces.

Animal feed is purchased with support from
SFA brand members and partners.
SFA Mongolia team distributes animal feed to
herder organisations in worst hit areas.

The SFA works with established herder organisations that consist of multiple herding families in a communal grazing area, supporting them in governance, capacity building, and participatory planning to bring benefits to their livelihood. Find out more about how we support herder livelihoods and more through our work and standards here.

Throughout the last week, we have begun raising funds internally with incredible support from SFA members and partners to look to purchase and deliver essential items, such as fodders, blankets for animals, salt, supplements, batteries, medicines, and milk supplements for newborn animals. These items are purchased from local suppliers at the province level and handed over to herder organisation leaders, ensuring efficient distribution to herders in need, as well as supporting local businesses.

Supplies are delivered to the heads of SFA herder organisations,
who will distribute out to their member households.
Certificate of appreciation is received from Khentii province government, with thanks to SFA Mongolia and our members.

Thank you to SFA Members & Partners

On behalf of our SFA herders and herder organisations, we would like to say a huge thank you to all our brand and retailer members, chain of custody participants and partners who have already reached out to us with amazing offers of support. Without your generous donations and joint efforts, we wouldn’t be able to support our herder households in working to overcome the Dzud disaster by providing much-needed moral support.

Ms Narantsetseg, head of the Yavin-Bulag herder cooperative, of Umnudelger soum Khentii Province, expressed profound gratitude for the aid received via video call to the SFA Mongolia & UK team:

“It is the first aid we receive for the entire soum. The cube feeds are crucial for this time. We are distributing them to co-op members and begging Mother Nature to turn the season soon. Thank you SFA for the aid!”

While initial relief efforts have garnered commendation from local authorities, the road ahead remains fraught with challenges. The SFA aid campaign is ongoing and calling members and other partners in the natural fibre industry for support. If you would like to get involved with our Dzud natural disaster plan and emergency fund, please contact

A Mongolian proverb says:

“It is worth helping with a single needle when in need, rather than a whole camel in time of prosperity.”

Tamir Bud


29 February 2024

Ensure Your Supply Chain is Certified Against the SFA FPS

Posted by Katy Edwards

It is SFA policy that only cashmere that has been dehaired and scoured in compliance with the SFA Fibre Processing Standard (FPS) can be considered to be ‘SFA Certified’. The timeline has now been defined and primary processors will have until 1st November 2024 to become certified. In order to achieve this deadline, please reach out to your supply chains and make sure they are certified, as after this date they will no longer be able to supply ‘SFA Certified’ cashmere without FPS certification. Additionally, we will be providing training for FPS over the next few months, so please do reach out to us at if organisations within your supply chain would like to attend.

To help you communicate the benefits of certification and the process for getting certified, we have created the guide below. Please share it with your supply chain and encourage them to get certified as soon as possible.

What is the SFA Fibre Processing Standard?

The SFA Fibre Processing Standard has been developed for primary processing plants that sort, scour (wash) and de-hair raw cashmere fibres. The requirements are focused on the reduction and elimination of harmful chemicals such as APEOs in line with ZDHC’s MRSL, efficient use of energy and water, and ensuring safe and fair working environments.

The standard can be applied to processing plants that sort, prepare, scour and / or de-hair cashmere fibre along with the environmental, social and supply chain elements of the business that run alongside these operations. This helps to provide economic growth for herders and the supply chain, as processes such as sorting help to increase the value of fibres. This continuous improvement within your supply chain, supported by the standard, will allow for better measuring and monitoring in key areas such as carbon reduction.

It is split into different units for each of these processes, and processing plants must achieve compliance in all units that are relevant to its function. By becoming certified against the SFA Fibre Processing Standard, your supply chain is proving that it is committed to the following principles:


  • Fair labour & working conditions
  • No child labour
  • Health, safety & hygiene


  • Safe use of chemicals & hazardous substances
  • No APEOs
  • Energy & water usage
  • Controlled environmental waste management


  • Long-term economic growth
  • Economic value for herders & supply chain
  • Accountability & effective management through KPIs

What are the Benefits of Certification?

1. Increased value through SFA Fibre Processing Standard

The SFA offers the SFA Fibre Processing Standard as a way for the primary processors in your supply chain to demonstrate their commitment to, and success in, meeting environmental and workplace best practice. Achieving this allows primary processors to sell SFA Certified fibre as part of the Chain of Custody. The SFA also provides support, training, and assessments in the Standard.

2. Increased value through SFA Chain of Custody

To meet the growing consumer expectations for transparency and sustainably produced goods, the SFA has implemented a Chain of Custody within its Standards. This allows the primary processors within your supply chain to validate their fibres as those originating from certified sources and attain greater value. This ensures that you, and other buyers along the supply chain, can trace the certified status of your purchases.

3. Links to fibre producers

Primary processors, who are SFA certified, gain access to where they are visible to Mongolian herder organisations and can access valuable information about them. Events such as the “Herding Organisation & Processor Meet & Greet”, which promotes collaboration between processors and herders, are also open to certified members. These offerings have been invaluable during global events like the Covid pandemic, when traders who usually facilitate the connections were unable to travel.

4. Market links

Access to also provides visibility to other SFA members and Chain of Custody participants. The platform displays business contact details and in addition, certain processors may disclose the quantity of raw fibre they currently have in stock. It helps to promote trust between buyers and sellers of the cashmere sector through a common Standard.

5. Focused training

Through the Fibre Processing Standard, the SFA offers training sessions and in-depth training manuals across all three areas of cashmere fibre primary processing. These are:

  • Sorting
  • Scouring
  • Dehairing

We will be providing training over the next few months, so please do reach out to us at if organisations within your supply chain would like to attend.

6. Invitations to SFA events

In addition to providing training on our Standards, the SFA offers many networking events, member meetings and conferences. Certified processors are also given the opportunity to speak at SFA conferences to present their perspectives on diverse topics related to the cashmere sector.

7. Greater understanding of their agency as cashmere processors

The main objective of the SFA is to promote the sustainable and responsible production of cashmere that adheres to global standards. In pursuit of this objective, the SFA encourages processors to source and process responsibly in order to add value and reputation as well as continuous improvement to bring social and environmental change. Additionally, an emphasis is placed on operating efficiently and transparently to ensure accountability within the industry and your own supply chain to help bring about better measuring and monitoring.

8. Be better informed about opportunities to integrate SFA Standards

The SFA’s grassroots approach involves actively engaging with those who adhere to the SFA Standards into their day-to-day operations. Feedback from processors on how to demonstrate compliance and show improvements, including inputs on practical limitations, play a pivotal role in forming and refining the SFA requirements.

How do they become certified?

1. Register with the SFA

First and foremost, if the primary processors within your supply chain are looking for certification against the SFA Chain of Custody and / or Textile Exchange Content Claim Standard to produce, process and/or trade ‘SFA Certified’ fibre they must register with the SFA. Registering with the SFA will generate a unique reference number for their company.

To get started, they need to email

2. Find a Conformity Assessment Body (CAB)

Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs) are independent third parties accredited to carrying out certification and other activities related to the assurance of certification schemes. The list of CABs approved to conduct certification activities for the SFA Fibre Processing Standard and SFA Chain of Custody can be found here on the SFA website.

3. Complete an assessment and, if they’re successful, become certified

Their chosen CAB will be able to provide more information on the certification process including how long it takes and costs.

Is your supply chain certified ready?

With the information provided above on the benefits and process of becoming certified against the SFA Fibre Processing Standard and SFA Chain of Custody, we do hope that you reach out to your supply chains over the coming months to ensure that they are certified and have their relevant scope certificates come 1st November 2024 to help keep your supply chain running smoothly.

Katy Edwards


26 January 2024

What Makes Cashmere, Cashmere?

Posted by Katy Edwards

Unravel cashmere's unique qualities and their role in the responsible production of cashmere.

The insurance of high-quality cashmere fibre is one of a number of important factors that feed into its responsible production – the core of the Sustainable Fibre Alliance’s (SFA) mission. Achieving gold standard sustainable fibre should exist in conjunction with the commercial interests of the sector. However, such an outcome depends on an approach that holistically focuses on a number of key environmental, welfare and production areas – it also takes time, which does not often work well in the context of fast fashion. In this article, we are going to explore how cashmere’s properties, origins and qualities play a significant role in steering the industry’s longevity and authenticity, alongside reducing its environmental and social impact.

Cashmere is combed or sheared from cashmere goats predominantly herded or farmed on arid plains in China, Mongolia and Afghanistan. High quality cashmere relies on the seasonal, subzero temperatures of these environments in order for goats to grow the insulating undercoats that the fibre is harvested from. Cashmere is world renowned for its softness, warmth, elasticity and, when knitted or woven, its ability to keep its shape. Once recognised for its exclusivity, cashmere is now a high street and supermarket staple and is available to suit more democratised price points. However, the casualty of quantity is quality, with lower grade fibres added to the mix to meet the growing demand for cheaper, faster fashion.

Cashmere’s unique qualities stem from a number of core, measurable properties including fineness (the fibre’s diametre), length, colour and crimp, which vary depending on a number of factors including the age, breed and welfare of cashmere goats, their environment and the way in which the fibre is harvested, stored and processed. The standards for the welfare of cashmere goats vary depending on their location, but all prioritise the natural behaviours of cashmere herds and their mental wellbeing, access to good quality food, clean water and shelter when required. In Mongolia, the welfare of cashmere goats is intrinsically linked to the quality of their natural environment, which has come under strain due to climate change and overgrazing. Ensuring the preservation of the goats’ natural habitat is dependent on effective herd management and regenerative herding practices to ensure grasslands are utilised and maintained in line with nature, not against it. Effective Management and Animal Welfare, along with preservation and improvement of good quality cashmere fibre are three of the five Global Principles outlined by the SFA’s Cashmere Standard for the responsible production of cashmere. The continued decline of cashmere fibre is a direct symptom of overconsumption and poses a significant threat to the livelihoods and prosperity of cashmere herders, as well as to the integrity and longevity of cashmere fabric. By committing to improving fibre quality, the SFA aims to secure livelihoods for cashmere herders, enabling them to maintain their traditional way of life with incomes that can sustain them. Furthermore, it sits at the heart of the SFA’s call-to-action for developing sustainable cashmere supply chains in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to eradicate poverty (Goal One) and to encourage and incentivise the sustainable production and consumption of cashmere fibre (Goal Twelve). However, improving cashmere fibre quality is not a simple fix and it takes time to see marked differences, especially as cashmere goats produce harvests just once a year. In line with the SFA’s Cashmere Standard, there are a number of key areas that herders need to focus on in order to maximise on fibre quality including responsibly breeding goats that produce good quality fibre, knowledge sharing between herder communities, and monitoring and adapting their methods depending on the outcome of their annual harvest. Knowledge sharing is especially important in the context of environmental responsibility, not only in cashmere, but across the entirety of the fashion sector and other global industries. Applying effective knowledge and methods to one group is good, but sharing such insight across an expanse of groups and communities is excellent. This is how long lasting sector-wide sustainable impact is made.

The key to unlocking high quality, high grade cashmere fibre – graded from A to C, depends on the aforementioned environmental and welfare conditions goats reside in, but it also depends on several other external factors. For instance, the way in which the fibre is sorted and stored. The age and colour of goats are important to the overarching quality of fibre and, in mixed herds, the SFA Cashmere Standard ensures that fibres are sorted and stored with this in mind to separate different grades of cashmere fibre. Fibres are also stored using materials that reduce the likelihood of contamination, be that via fragments from the storage itself – such as fragile polypropylene bags, or other foreign, biological materials.

To protect the integrity of cashmere fibre, fibres are tested in laboratory settings to ensure the quality and authenticity of cashmere goods. Industry leaders such as the CCMI and SGS respectively promote and use various technologies, like optical and scanning electron microscopes to check fibre scales, along with other properties such as fibre fineness in order to test these perimetres, identifying products that are falsely labelled via fibre blends or fibre qualities that are below industry standards.

When asked: ‘How does effective fibre testing and identification have an impact on the cashmere’s industry progression toward increased sustainability?’ CCMI’s President Fabio Garzena responded:

“Testing methods – microscopy before and more recently instrumental methods like proteomics and DNA had, have and will have a direct impact on the sustainability of the fibre. If the cashmere wasn’t recognised as such by testing or if its value and integrity wasn’t protected in the past and now, and hopefully in the future (mainly by the action of CCMI and its members), the cashmere industry would have not been sustainable and the value chain and its viability could have been compromised. Today we associate the concept of “sustainability” with animal welfare, grassland management and soil degradation, but these important aspects are the most recent of many challenges that the entire cashmere industry has faced, is still facing, and will face.

There is still a need for further innovations in testing technology. Today, we lack a reliable quantitative methodology to measure the blends of recycled and virgin cashmere. Even qualitative evaluations are not reliable or standardised. Recycled cashmere is cashmere, but of course has a lower quality compared to virgin cashmere, however most of the recycled cashmere is not sold as such to consumers, which are unaware of what they are buying. This is not transparent for consumers and is unfair competition for the supply chain that lives on virgin cashmere and is producing the cashmere that will be recycled in the future.

Everything is “sustainability”: some aspects or past challenges have been resolved only because they have become “business as usual”, but cannot be ignored, but managed daily. Current “sustainability” efforts are more challenging because they need more network integration and collaboration, which is complex and needs time and compromises to be accepted by everyone.”

When mentioning significant trends or changes in cashmere fibre testing, and whether fibre quality or purity has changed over recent years, Fabio said:

“During the last decade there have been various, very important innovations in the testing technologies related to animal fibers recognition and quantification, which of course includes cashmere. Proteomics methods have been developed and standardised and their use is and will get more widespread with the reduction of their cost (already similar to traditional microscopy). Such instrumental methodology has resolved, once and for all, the issue of distinguishing cashmere from yak or very fine wool with a fully objective method (an improved DNA based method will add further tools in this direction). Microscopy of course is objective but relies on technicians’ skill, so is very difficult to master. Instrumental analysis requires training and investments in expensive equipment, but can scale up easier if needed.

About quality and purity, these are concepts that depend on where and when we consider such features: quality of cashmere might be slightly reduced compared to the past, but this has nothing to do with purity. Purity is a concept related to manufacturing in all the different stages of the supply chain, of course without considering “intentional blends” made with fraudulent intent. For those cases of course testing technology have been an extremely important tool.”

The fineness of cashmere fibre is defined by the fibre’s diameter, measured in microns – a micron is one millionth of a metre (µm). The micron count of cashmere fibre can measure anywhere from 15 microns to 19 microns, with some super fine cashmere measuring as low as 14 microns from adult goats. For context, The International Wool Textile Organisation states wool fibres can range from 17 microns for super fine merino wool to 40 microns for much coarser wool used in carpets and hard wearing textiles. The fineness of cashmere fibre is what makes it soft and gentle on skin, with finer fibres achieving higher premiums. Fibres with higher micron counts such as wool are known for their irritation when worn next to skin. In contrast, cashmere’s fineness reduces irritation and increases practical versatility with a range of applications in garment and accessory design and production.

A much sought after, super fine cashmere, reserved only for the upper echelons of the luxury market – is baby cashmere – cashmere harvested from kids less than one year old. As goats mature their fibre thickens, but young kids produce cashmere with an average micron count of just 13.5 microns, which takes an entire season to produce just 30 grams. For context, an adult cashmere goat produces on average over 110 grams per growing season, so baby cashmere is an extremely rare and expensive fibre.

Another defining feature of cashmere quality is the length of the fibre – known as the ‘staple length’ – with lengths ranging from approximately 28mm to 42mm. The longer the staple lengths the higher the quality, because longer fibres are easier to spin and produce stronger yarns, fabrics and clothing that are more resistant to pilling (the bulbs that form in areas of high friction). Longer fibres also allow cashmere garments and fabrics to retain their shape better, with shorter fibres producing more fragile garments that have a more common tendency to stretch after wear and washing – feeding into the unsustainability of fast, throwaway fashion.

Multiple studies have identified how harvesting methods can impact fibre length, with industry leaders preferring the traditional combing method over shearing. Combing is when the fine cashmere undercoat is gently removed from the goat’s coarser guard coat during shedding season and naturally maintains the entirety of the fibre’s length, while reducing the removal of coarser guard hairs. Cashmere purity refers to the ratio of fine cashmere fibre to coarser guard hair exceeding the 30 micron limit. As identified by the CCMI, classified cashmere garments and fabrics should not contain more than 3% (by weight) of cashmere fibres above this limit. By shearing, coarser guard hairs are more prominent in harvests.

Cashmere is lauded for its ability to take dyes and retain its colour fastness – the capacity of materials to keep their colour. Lighter cashmere fibres are more versatile with respect to this and are therefore seen to be more valuable. White fibres, the industry’s gold standard, remove or reduce the need for bleaching at the dye phase and provide a wider variety of colour options. For darker fibres, bleaching is a necessity but can be harsh on fibres and can therefore impact the strength of the fibres in the long run. However, white cashmere fibre is not a natural norm and is most easily attained in a controlled farm setting, such as those seen in China. Cashmere goats herded in Mongolia and Afghanistan as a part of traditional pastoral lifestyles vary greatly in colour, with fewer white goats set against herds ranging from greys, browns and sometimes black. Mongolia’s national herd is known for its grey and brown goats, while Afghanistan’s herd is darker again, with goats producing grey, dark brown and sometimes black fibres. Selective breeding is one way the SFA is working with herders towards increased fibre quality, which involves the breeding of goats with fibres in a range of colours that are longer, finer and with higher levels of crimp.

Crimp refers to the natural waves of cashmere fibres, with higher crimp more prominent in finer fibres. Cashmere fibres are naturally wavy, providing essential insulation for goats raised in cold climates. Fibres with increased levels of crimp are of a higher standard and are linked to cashmere’s elasticity and the aforementioned insulation properties. Higher crimp not only increases insulation through the capture of heat bubbles in the wave, but it also enables fibres to lock together more effectively during the yarn spinning phase of production. Crimp is also known to give cashmere its loftiness and famously luxurious drape.

While setting the precedent for the continuation and increased flow of high quality cashmere fibre should be set by the cashmere industry itself, the consumer still has a significant role to play. Due to the nature of cashmere, it should not play a role in any decisions to impulse buy. Investing in pieces that last and are well made from high quality, responsibly sourced materials is paramount to the move to more environmentally and ethically sustainable fashion and textiles. While consumers might not have access to in-depth technical information, understanding the journey of cashmere and the importance of fibre quality for the sustainability of the cashmere industry is integral to making responsible purchasing decisions.

Lotti Blades-Barrett

22 January 2024

2023 Highlights

Posted by Katy Edwards
231213_SM Options for Holidays & New Year_v1

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.

231218_SFA Landscape Verification Project_02

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.

230929_Natural Fibre Connect 2023_06

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.

Continuous Improvement

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.

231213_SM Options for Holidays & New Year_v1 (1)

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!

Tamir Bud


20 December 2023

Please note, illustrations have been created using Ai.

SFA Chain of Custody Standard Public Consultation is Now Open

Posted by Katy Edwards

Update: This public consultation has now closed.

The Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA) has now opened public consultation on our draft SFA Chain of Custody Standard. We are seeking feedback on the new proposed draft from all stakeholders and members of the public.

Online Feedback Form

Please support us and provide your feedback on all aspects of the SFA Chain of Custody Standard by clicking on the button below and completing our online feedback form.

All relevant documents can be found at the top of the survey or at the bottom of this article.

Update: This consultation is now closed, thank you to all of those who participated.

Alternatively, if you are unable to complete the online survey for any reason, feel you are unable to participate due to a language barrier or have any other questions, then please do contact us at and we will do our best to accommodate your request.

Draft SFA Chain of Custody Standard & Statement of Intent Documents

Before filling out the survey, we ask that you first read the draft version of the SFA Chain of Custody Standard as well as our Statement of Intent document as it explains in detail why we are doing this work.

Click the buttons below to read these documents, or find them at the top of the online survey where Mongolian and Chinese versions of the Statement of Intent are also available.

The standard review is being conducted as per the SFA’s Standard Setting Procedure, which follows ISEAL’s code of good practice on Standard Setting. Decisions are made by the Standard Setting and Improvement Committee (SSIC).

Many thanks,

The Sustainable Fibre Alliance

Katy Edwards


Updated: 16 January 2024

Winter Preparation & Feed Management | Field Research

Posted by Katy Edwards

In collaboration with Agricultural Master’s student Alina Haus, from the University of Göttingen in Germany, the SFA initiated a study around the winter preparation and feeding management of certified herder cooperatives. In the summer of 2022, low precipitation rates and the ongoing increase of inflation impeded the usual winter and feed preparation of herders, such as harvesting hay and purchasing concentrated feed. Therefore, this study was carried out to explore opportunities to improve support to affected households and improve the winter preparation for upcoming winters at the herder cooperative level.

The study encompassed four cooperatives and their herder members across two study regions (Galuut Sum in Bayankhongor Aimag and Khulunbuir Sum in Dornod Aimag), who differed in the degradation status of the rangeland. In sum, a total of 21 households were interviewed, two focus group discussions were organized, and a total of 52 feed samples that were collected from state emergency fodder banks and herders were analyzed in the lab to assess the nutrient quality of the feed.

The interviews encompassed preferences for feeding and the quantities supplied, measures taken in advance to prepare for the winter (e. g., selling livestock before the winter, repair and insulation of the winter shed, etc.), as well as demographic aspects. During the focus group discussions, challenges and obstacles during the winter and feed preparations were discussed with herder cooperative leaders and members. Group work then followed to discuss and develop potential solutions at the cooperative level.

The results reveal that households in Galuut Sum faced great obstacles during the winter and feed preparation, and consequently prepared significantly less hay and other feeds than households in Khulunbuir Sum. Also, collaborative actions were implemented poorly on this site, while the cooperative leaders in Khulunbuir Sum organized communal haying events before the onset of the winter.

In Galuut Sum, financial resources for herders and cooperatives were not accessible, and the high prices for feed and fuel led to the reluctant purchase of feed during the winter. In contrast, sufficient pasture productivity in Khulunbuir Sum allowed herders to prepare in advance for winter challenges, and decent infrastructure enabled herders to acquire wheat bran as feed from local mill companies.

Finally, the discussions with cooperative leaders and herder members revealed great potential to provide support to herders at the cooperative level. For instance, feed bulk orders initiated by the cooperative leader could increase the herders’ leverage in pricing negotiations, and the communal installation of storage for meat and feed could reduce individual costs. Further,  cooperative leaders are in charge for communicating the needs of their members to local government and administration to ensure local policies are being developed to support herders and cooperatives. Nevertheless, skills in organizational management and communication of the cooperative leader are prerequisites for the successful implementation of collaborative activities.

With the help of these outcomes, the SFA will provide support to those herders and cooperative leaders who need assistance in the feed acquisition and winter preparation to increase their resilience to future winter hazards and climate change, to strengthen their capacity to adapt and improve management to overcome natural disasters. The study researcher believes that supporting activities in this direction will undoubtedly be an important measure that will greatly encourage the sustainable operation of cooperatives in the longer term.

The SFA is Hiring for a Head of Operations!

Posted by Katy Edwards

We are on the look out for a new Head of Operations to oversee the SFA-wide budgets and ensure that resources are raised and co-ordinated efficiently and effectively. Working with the CEO and leadership team, the successful individual will responsible for developing organisational policies as well as manage the UK office and global operations.

The ideal candidate will have experience of executing operations, systems and process improvement. They will be confident leading change and be a strong communicator.

You can find the full job description as well as other openings at the SFA HERE.

The SFA is Hiring for a Project Manager!

Posted by Sarah Krueger

The SFA is looking to hire a Project Manager to establish a scalable cashmere certification programme in Afghanistan that can improve the livelihoods of herding communities and the sustainability of the cashmere supply chain. 

The ideal candidate will have technical and field experience managing sustainable development programs, preferably in the livestock industry.

You can find the full job description as well as other openings at the SFA HERE.

PLEASE NOTE: This position has now been filled.

2022 Highlights

Posted by Fiona Jones

It has been a busy and productive year for the Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA), and we are excited to share some of our main highlights with you.

First and foremost, we are pleased to report that we now have 59 members from 11 countries, not including producer groups. In 2022, we made intensive efforts to build capacity for a sustainable cashmere industry at all levels, including training on standard requirements, leadership training, strengthening cooperative management, business management training, and helping channel herder-led policy recommendations to the Mongolian government.

One of the biggest undertakings of the year was the restructuring of our standard system, which involved integrating our three herder level codes of practice into a single, overreaching global standard based on 5 principles for sustainable cashmere. This has helped to create a more cohesive and comprehensive approach to sustainability within the cashmere industry.

As of the end of the year, we have certified 93 herder organizations in Mongolia, covering over 10,000 herder households, as well as 15,000 farms in China. This accounts for over 6 million goats and 720 tonnes of certified raw fibre from Mongolia and 3,234 tonnes of certified raw fibre from China.

There were many other highlights from the year, including the separation of our assurance and certification arm, NEXUS Connect, from the SFA and its establishment as a new, independent organization. We also formed new partnerships with organizations like Natural Fibre Connect, the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, the University of Milan, and more. In addition, we partnered with Khan Bank to offer preferential green loans to certified herders, with 37 cooperatives being selected for green funding. This helps to reduce the burden of high interest rates and debt in herder communities.

The SFA co-founded the new Natural Fibre Connect conference and platform alongside the International Alpaca Association, Mohair South Africa, and Wool Connect. The first conference was held in September and welcomed 1,000 guests from 43 different countries and had an additional 10,000+ Mongolian herders tune in to the live stream. We had 80 speakers discussing 9 main themes and nearly 40 different workshops and demonstrations.

Finally, we have been involved in a number of research projects this year with partner organisations, including the world’s first Life Cycle Assessment of cashmere, a project promoting dryland sustainable landscapes and biodiversity conservation in the Eastern Steppe of Mongolia, and a project looking at the role of supplementary feed in winter risk mitigation in Mongolia.

As we look back on the year, we are proud of the progress we have made and are excited for the opportunities and challenges ahead. We hope you have a happy holiday season and look forward to continuing to work towards a more sustainable future for cashmere in the new year.

Mongolia’s Academy of Science Partnership

Posted by Fiona Jones

This fall, Mongolia’s Academy of Science and the Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA) signed a memorandum of cooperation. The goal of the collaboration is to assess and certify sustainable wool and cashmere production operations in order to reduce the negative impact of cashmere production on the environment, provide a better environment for the well-being of herd animals, and increase the ability of herders to recover their livelihoods.

Some of the objectives the partnership will focus on are:

Natural Fibre Connect 2022

Posted by Fiona Jones

Natural Fibre Connect Online Conference 2022

Natural Fibre Connect is an online conference taking place on 7-9 September 2022 for the alpaca, cashmere, mohair, and wool industries.

As the effects of climate change and market fluctuations continue to grow, it is more important than ever before to understand the impact on growers and herders at the beginning of our supply chains — their prosperity is vital for safeguarding the future of the sector and making real progress towards our sustainability goals. The virtual event will cover trends, challenges, and innovations within the four industries and how they are impacting growers and herders around the world. In turn, we will look at how the growers and herders themselves are shaping the future of the sector.

The event will welcome over 1000+ guests from around the world, including growers, processors, brokers, manufacturers, brands, NGOs, and government stakeholders invested in the natural fibres sector. As the name of the conference suggests, the focus will be to connect all actors of the supply chain, exchange knowledge and insights and work together toward reaching the Sustainable Development Goals.

The 3 live days are filled with expert speakers, recorded talks, and roundtable discussions aimed at tackling the common challenges of the alpaca, cashmere, mohair, and wool industries.

Attendees will benefit from plenty of networking opportunities including access to the virtual exhibition hall where they can connect with fibre supply chain companies, NGOs, and government organisations invested in making the natural fibre industries more sustainable.

Topics discussed during the three-day conference will be:

The event platform is available in English, Spanish, and Chinese. There will be 2 sessions per day discussing the same topics with different speakers: First session (7:00-10:00 UTC) Second session (14:00-17:00 UTC).

An overview of the schedule can be viewed here:

More information and tickets about the event can be found here:

COP26 | The SFA meets with the Mongolian Delegation

Posted by Fiona Jones

This past week, the SFA was honoured to meet with the Mongolian delegation for COP26 in Scotland for a tour of Alex Begg’s factory. Alex Begg, a longstanding member of the SFA, is a leading manufacturer of luxury goods and accessories and is committed to sourcing sustainably produced cashmere from Mongolian producers. The delegation’s visit to the factory, and the discussions around climate and land restoration which followed, shows the commitment that the new administration has towards sustainable trade and aligning Mongolia’s international policies on trade and climate change with the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN’s SDGs. The SFA is looking forward to developing public and private sector partnerships with the support of the new cabinet; these multi-stakeholder partnerships will help to support the Mongolian people towards creating an economy in sustainable cashmereas well as creating better systems by which to support this new economy.

Mongolian media also attended the tour of Alex Begg’s factory to document the ministers’ visit. Their reporting for the Mongolian public helped to highlight the role that the cashmere sector can have in mitigating the climate crisis and share new information and ideas from the government’s visit. Systemic change will involve participation along every stage of production and will require the support of a committed government and strong partnerships.

The SFA’s holistic approach to sustainable cashmere is a good example of what is required to make lasting and widespread change in this industry. It requires the cooperation of the whole supply chain and the support of the global market to address issues of land management, animal welfare, clean fibre processing and herder livelihoods. It is through economic incentives that we will see change on the ground as a market-led approach acknowledges the important connection between a thriving economy and environmental impact.

As the SFA continues to grow and expand, we look forward to future opportunities to connect with the Mongolian cabinet and further develop the relationship and ideas introduced at COP26 that promise a better future for cashmere. 

The Sustainable Cashmere Standard Public Consultation is Now Open

Posted by Fiona Jones

SFA first published codes of practice for rangeland stewardship, animal husbandry, and clean fibre processing. The focus for each of these is on continuous improvement with certification at three award levels to reflect compliance. 

In 2022 the SFA is proposing consolidating into the Sustainable Cashmere Standard, a performance-based, outcome-oriented worldwide standard. The Principles and Criteria focus on the production of cashmere in a way that is measurably better for animals, the environment, and herding communities. 

The SCS Principles are the essential rules or elements of environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable cashmere production, and the Criteria provide the means of judging whether or not a Principle has been fulfilled. 

To find our more, visit our website for more details. 

Sustainable Fibre Alliance Becomes an ISEAL Community Member

Posted by Fiona Jones

ISEAL is pleased to welcome the Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA) into the ISEAL community as an ISEAL Community Member. We are excited to learn from their experience at implementing a standard at a landscape level, and engaging with them to support their improvement over time.

ISEAL members are sustainability systems and accreditation bodies dedicated to delivering benefits for people and planet. They are committed to continually improving their systems and impacts through learning and innovation; collaborating with stakeholders and peers; and are transparent and truthful about how their systems work and how they measure their impacts.

In becoming an ISEAL Community Member, SFA joins a growing number of well-respected sustainability systems that are driving positive social and environmental change across multiple sectors. SFA will be working alongside these mission-driven sustainability organisations to continuously improve the effectiveness of their systems and demonstrate impact.

Further to the recommendation from the ISEAL Membership Committee, and ISEAL Board approval, ISEAL’s Executive Director Karin Kreider said, “I am very pleased to welcome the Sustainable Fibre Alliance to the ISEAL community! And, excited that we now have a member whose primary focus is the cashmere sector and working in Mongolia. They provide an important contribution to the challenges of textile production and their field-based work contributes to landscape-based approaches — a welcome addition to the ISEAL learning community.”

Una Jones, CEO & Founder of SFA commented that, “Being an ISEAL community member is a reflection of how committed the SFA is to improving our standard system and its requirements and processes. We are looking forward to learning from other standard holding bodies and sharing best practices and innovative approaches for tackling sustainability challenges”.

ISEAL encourages any organisation developing or operating a sustainability system with a multi-stakeholder approach and a commitment to credible practices to consider joining ISEAL. 

Find out more on the ISEAL membership page.


ISEAL is the global membership organisation for ambitious, collaborative and transparent sustainability systems. We’re driving collective efforts to tackle the most pressing sustainability issues and create a world where markets are a force for good.

Joining ISEAL’s learning community helps sustainability systems and their partners to deliver real, lasting, positive change. Our Community Members are sustainability standards and similar systems that collaborate to scale and demonstrate positive impact. Our Code Compliant members go further, adhering to our Codes of Good Practice – a globally recognised framework for best practice.

Find out more about our members:

Explore evidence on the impacts of sustainability systems:

Register your interest in our Mongolia Chain of Custody

Posted by Fiona Jones

Interested in purchasing SFA Certified Cashmere from Mongolia this year? Register your interest HERE by April 12 and we will get back to you with more information and the official participant forms.

Why is it important for brands and retailers to commit to Chain of Custody? Committing to the purchase of SFA Certified fibre helps ensure the participation of herders and processors by showing demand for certified cashmere. This in turn increases the amount of certified fibre on the market and supports a more sustainable cashmere supply chain.

Registration for our Mongolia Chain of Custody requires a £500 fee which helps support the SFA’s Chain of Custody operations. While the SFA is not a broker, we will help connect you to certified sellers as well as support you with product and marketing claims.

For questions, contact Gunchi Tumur at

Save the Date – Sustainability in the Cashmere Sector Conference 2021

Posted by Fiona Jones

This September the SFA will be hosting a two part conference to explore Sustainability in the Cashmere Sector. Join us from 8-11th of September for our Ulaanbaatar Conference and from 14-16th for our Virtual Conference.

Registration is now open and you can find more information on our event website:

If you are interested in becoming a sponsor or speaker, please contact Katy Edwards:

Round Two of Public Consultation on SFA-ICCAW Cashmere Goat Welfare Code of Practice is Now Open…

Posted by Fiona Jones

Round two of the Public Consultation for the joint SFA-ICCAW Code of Practice development is now open for feedback until 12pm on 15th February 2021. More information can be found here.

Round Two of Public Consultation on Clean Fibre Processing (review) is now open…

Posted by Fiona Jones

Round two of the Clean Fibre Processing Code of Practice review is now open until 31st January 2021 for your feedback. More information can be found here.

Nomadic Herders meet with luxury cashmere brands

Posted by Fiona Jones

SFA herders met online with representatives of leading luxury brands to discuss the major issues affecting the cashmere sector this year, including the impact of Covid-19, this summer’s drought, fibre demand and sustainability practices. The aim of the meetings was to galvanise collective action in building and promoting a competitive and sustainable cashmere sector in Mongolia.

The herders, who have all been accredited against the SFA Codes of Practice, had the opportunity to share their efforts in rangeland protection and animal welfare and their focus on improving livestock quality over quantity. In the Bayarkhongor region the urgency to reduce the number of livestock and improve the rangeland conditions has been brought into sharp focus with the threat of a dzud this year (where extreme weather following a poor summer results in livestock not being able to access enough grass).

The SFA collaborated with the UNDP’s Mongolian Sustainable Cashmere Platform (MSCP), who initiated the meetings. They also arranged meetings with other sustainability initiatives including the NFPUG, ENSURE and Green Gold. 

This was the first in a series of these meetings between produces and brands, the next will be on the 20th November, if you would like to attend, or would like us to pose a question on your behalf then register on – it’s certainly not your typical zoom meeting!

Herder training in Inner Mongolia begins!

Posted by Fiona Jones

In September, an on-going series of herder training began in the joint SFA x ICCAW Code of Practice in Cashmere Goat Welfare. The training began in Erdos City and the Yingen Sumu area of Inner Mongolia and was followed by interviews and the inspection of farms of the Ordos Cashmere Group, which were individually assessed on their animal welfare standards. 

In the training, Mr Ayoshi Yongxi, the president of ICCAW, explains the basic principles of animal welfare and emphasises the importance of animal welfare of cashmere goats to the international market. The training sessions are delivered by researchers and professors from the Inner Mongolia Agricultural University.  

The topics covered include: 

Herders Receive Business Development Training

Posted by Fiona Jones

As part of the SFA’s Covid-19 Action Plan, a two-day Business Development Training for Herding Organisations has been held this week in Ulaanbaatar. The aim was to develop business management capacity for herder organisations and cooperatives to trade in raw materials and to increase governance at community organisational level.

A key focus of the SFA’s Covid-19 Action Plan is to reduce the economic vulnerability of herders through increasing economic literacy and their business development training.

The training was well attended with 50 participants, including 39 Herding Organisations Leaders from 35 soums across 10 provinces.

The training was delivered by speakers from the SFA, the Export Development Programme, the Employment Promotion Project and Mandakh Universities and topics included:

Proposal for an ‘International Year of Rangelands & Pastoralists’

Posted by Fiona Jones

Grasslands are fundamental to the cashmere supply chain and the Mongolian government is proposing an International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists. Here’s a short film about pastoralists around the world and their importance. Or visit to find out more about the initiative.

Public Consultation on Clean Fibre Processing (review) is now open…

Posted by Fiona Jones

The public consultation on the review of The Clean Fibre Processing Code of Practice is open until September 30th. Click here to access the public summary and relevant documents.

Public Consultation on SFA x ICCAW Goat Welfare Code of Practice now open…

Posted by Fiona Jones

The first round of public consultation is now open until the 16th October please follow the link for the public summary.

Good Herding Podcasts

Posted by Fiona Jones

May 2020

This month the SFA Mongolia team has released the first podcast in a series on good herding practices, during cashmere season. This is just one in a series of new ways that the SFA in Mongolia are engaging with herders, which includes videos, a TV series with Khan Bank and handbooks. All of these training materials will be expanded in response to COVID restrictions.

The Chain of Custody has started!

Posted by Fiona Jones

SFA Chain of Custody Standard Update

November 2023

The SFA (Sustainable Fibre Alliance) has now opened public consultation on our draft SFA Chain of Custody Standard. We are seeking feedback on the new proposed draft from all stakeholders and members of the public.

For more information and to take part in the public consultation, please visit our news article.

April 2020

The bags have been stamped, the labels have been printed and for the first time, we are about to trace cashmere fibre from the herders through the entire supply chain to the shop floor. Participating companies have been announced in the Chain of Custody pathways. This cashmere season, SFA herding communities have been preparing their fibre by colour and quality. Herding communities in the Ovorkhangai and South Gobi regions have just received their SFA Transaction Certificates and are the first step in our chain of custody pilot.

SFA X ICCAW Inner Mongolia Collaboration

Posted by Fiona Jones

SFA is proud to announce that we have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Cooperation Committee on Animal Welfare (ICCAW) to cooperate in jointly developing and implementing a joint Code of Practice for accreditation of animal welfare and environmental sustainability of cashmere production in China. The Code of Practice will provide specific guidance for herding families and companies on how to implement ICCAW’s Cashmere Goat Farm Animal Welfare Requirements and will be implementable within SFA’s Sustainable Cashmere Standard.

Covid-19 Action Plan

Posted by typeface

The economic impacts of Covid-19 on herding families are considerable and concerning. The fall in demand for cashmere caused a fall of up to 60% (compared to last year’s average price of raw cashmere). For the majority of herders, this is devastating since cashmere is their main or only income. The fall in income will not only impact their own economic security and wellbeing but the welfare of their animals. The SFA surveyed its herders this May and the responses indicate that reduced incomes and loan repayments will impact animal welfare in three ways:

  1. Fewer animals will be vaccinated against disease
  1. Lack of funds for animal feed
  1. Lack of funds for maintaining winter shelters

Over the past five years, the SFA has worked with herding communities to promote the adoption of sustainable herding practices, which contributes to building resilience in their own herding livelihoods. Covid-19 has only highlighted the importance of local networks and support systems, access to knowledge, flexibility and mobility, innovative herding skills and use of reserve pastures in helping herding communities cope with external shocks. Whether faced with a global pandemic or climatic disaster, we can help herders become better prepared for these shocks, mitigate their impacts and recover from more quickly.

In response to Covid-19 the SFA set up a Covid-19 Working Group where we and our members identified where we can add new activities in order to target our efforts where they are most needed responding to the two core goals of :

Reducing economic vulnerability of Mongolian herding communities

Building capacity for responsible fibre production.

The recommendations of the SFA Covid-19 Working Group regarding our key areas of action are as follows:

  1. Explore what opportunities herding families and communities have to reduce their reliance on the cashmere fibre crop.
  1. Develop a programme of support to herders that encourages a communal approach to dealing with financial/environmental shocks, animal welfare management and disaster response.
  1. Develop an incentive mechanism to encourage and reward good practice. 
  1. Work with other agencies and NGOs to agree joint action to improve the quality of Mongolian cashmere fibre quality, breeding or other related programmes.
  1. Extend the chain of custody model to allow a greater number of herders and processors to benefit from market access and price premiums and explore the potential to add further value through herder-level sorting of raw fibre.

Download the full SFA Covid-19 Action Plan here.