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.
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.
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:
Jointly developing the methodology of the MLE of SFA according to the International Social and Environmental Probability Credentialing and Labeling Standards.
Developing a three-year data collection strategy, work plan, and budget for the implementation of the MLE methodology in Mongolia.
Identifying potential data sources at national, regional and local levels to facilitate basic data collection.
Establishing an interdisciplinary working group consisting of experienced researchers in the 5 main areas of sustainable cashmere production identified by the SFA: animal welfare, biodiversity and land use, herdsmen’s working conditions, cashmere quality, and management.
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:
Life Cycle Assessment for natural fibres
The realities of animal welfare – challenges growers and herders face
Putting social welfare on the agenda – getting natural fibres to be recognised as the engine of rural economies
How to unlock regenerative agriculture for arid regions
How traceability is reshaping the industry – and our lives
How green finance can support growers and herders
The opportunities for web 3.0 for the textile industry
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).
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 cashmere, as 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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: https://conference.sustainablefibre.org/
If you are interested in becoming a sponsor or speaker, please contact Sarah Krueger at email@example.com.
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 http://sustainablecashmereplatform.com/ – it’s certainly not your typical zoom meeting!
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:
The animal welfare of goats in terms of feeding, drinking water, pen environment, breeding management, and cashmere harvesting from the perspective of the five basic principles of animal welfare.
Cashmere Goat Disease Prevention and Health Management
Cashmere Goat Welfare Breeding and Cashmere Quality Improvement
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:
The need for transparent and socially responsible livestock production, raw material preparation, quantity and quality assurance. Ensuring the active participation of cooperative members in conducting trade and preparation of livestock raw
An introduction to the technology, innovation and increase in productivity of processing and how cashmere sorting and storage impacts this.
Instructions for implementing registration systems for raw materials entering a supply chain, covering labels, packaging and transaction certificates. Experiences of those participating in the SFA Chain Of Custody Pilot in 2020.
How to attract funding and collaborate with international and national projects and local government organizations.
The methods of evaluation of labour participation, services and assets of cooperative members.
The calculation and distribution of income and expenses of cooperatives and organisations.
Economic incentives based on the performance of quality indicators, differentiated pricing systems, and potential difficulties and risks.
Negotiating and evaluating the terms of trade agreements.
The opportunity to meet with representatives of the raw materials processing industry.
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 https://iyrp.info/ to find out more about the initiative.
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 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 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.
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:
Fewer animals will be vaccinated against disease
Lack of funds for animal feed
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:
Explore what opportunities herding families and communities have to reduce their reliance on the cashmere fibre crop.
Develop a programme of support to herders that encourages a communal approach to dealing with financial/environmental shocks, animal welfare management and disaster response.
Develop an incentive mechanism to encourage and reward good practice.
Work with other agencies and NGOs to agree joint action to improve the quality of Mongolian cashmere fibre quality, breeding or other related programmes.
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.
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