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 Natural Fibre Connect conference returns for a second year on September 25-29, 2023 in Biella, Italy and virtually. The event will bring together over 500 industry professionals, researchers, and students from across the natural fibres sector.
Through plenary sessions, mill visits, workshops and beyond, conference attendees will gain insights into the latest trends, challenges and opportunities shaping the future of animal fibres. Sustainability, innovation, and transformative trends will be at the forefront of the conversation as expert speakers and representatives from across the sector will be engaging in the discussion. Those joining in-person will also have exclusive access to behind-the-scenes mill tours, witnessing first-hand how Italian craftsmanship transforms raw fibre into premium textiles.
Unlike any other conference of its kind, Natural Fibre Connect aims to prioritise the perspectives of growers and herders. Those attending the event will have the opportunity to hear directly from these most important stakeholders as they share how key challenges and trends are impacting the very foundations of the natural fibres sector as well as their livelihoods.
Evelyn Diaz, Peruvian Alpaca Grower and Veterinarian: “NFC is an event that allows us to connect with other growers, with the textile industry and the entire value chain. Likewise, it allows us to share and learn more about the problems and opportunities we have in common, and work together to improve our herds that produce alpaca, wool, mohair, and cashmere fiber. Let us remember that not only do we have the right to inhabit this beautiful space in the universe, but we must also think about future generations. I think that natural fibers offer us a chance at life and it is a great challenge for NFC to keep connecting with growers and entrepreneurs around the world.”
Topics discussed are global trends influencing the textile fibre industry, regenerative agriculture, fibre traceability, innovation and technology as well as green finance. Keynote speakers include Veronica Bates Kassatly (Independent Analyst), Anna Heaton (Textile Exchange), Philippa Grogan (Eco-Age) and a range of other exciting personas that will be announced soon on the event website. In addition, various fibre standards will be holding their working-group meetings during the event including RMS, RWS, SFA and ZDHC.
Whether attending virtually or in-person, Natural Fibre Connect 2023 offers an unparalleled platform to expand ones professional network, connect with potential partners and leave with actionable takeaways. Attending NFC takes participants on a journey towards a more sustainable future for fibres and fashion. Tickets can be purchased via the NFC website. Information about special sponsor packages and benefits can also be found on the event’s website.
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ABOUT NATURAL FIBRE CONNECT
Natural Fibre Connect brings together the world’s leading alpaca, cashmere, mohair and wool organisations to advance shared priorities around sustainability, innovation and ethics. By fostering collaboration across the natural fibres sector, Natural Fibre Connect aims to build a more transparent supply chain and empower fibre communities for generations to come. The Natural Fibre Connect conference is hosted by the International Alpaca Association, Mohair South Africa, The Schneider Group, and The Sustainable Fibre Alliance.
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.
The Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA) hosted a conference in Biella, Italy on February 2-3. The event welcomed over 70 guests from around the world, representing all stages of the cashmere supply chain, including herding cooperative leaders from Mongolia, cashmere processors, manufacturers, brands and retailers. In partnership with Natural Fibre Connect, the Schneider Group, The Cashmere & Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute (CCMI), and LVMH, the conference featured 14 talks from experts across the industry, a workshop focused on exploring solutions to sustainability challenges facing cashmere herders and the wider sector, as well as a factory tour to 3-key manufacturing sites in the area.
A Rare Opportunity for Mongolian Guests
The SFA Biella Cashmere Conference was the first of its kind conducted in Europe to include representatives from all phases of cashmere production, from raw cashmere to final products. For some of the guests – particularly those arriving from Mongolia – this was their first time in Europe, and a rare opportunity for them to meet directly with the companies and organisations further up the supply chain.
The Mongolian Embassy of Italy offered support for the event and took the opportunity to meet with visiting brands and producers. Una Jones, CEO of SFA: “We want to thank the Embassy of Mongolia, especially the 1st Secretary, Mrs. Delgerjargal Ganbold, and Honorary Consul Paolo Bonete, for their professional and valuable support to make this experience special for our Mongolian guests.” The delegates emphasized the importance of the visit of Mongolian national industries and cooperatives to Italy for the expansion of Mongolian cashmere exports to the European market. Giovanni Schneider, CEO of the Schneider Group, stated that he will be working towards enhancing the ability of Mongolian herders to compete on the market with other livestock products, as well as introducing and enforcing relevant standards to help build sustainable systems.
Ariunaa, director of Goyol Kashmer Co., Ltd., extended a warm welcome to representatives of major Mongolian cashmere processing companies. She stated, “The objective for the sustainable growth of Mongolia’s cashmere sector is to introduce the world to the superiority of sustainable cashmere processing and production. We, the manufacturer, are pleased that the SFA team is committed to socially responsible, environmentally friendly, and sustainable manufacturing within the context of this objective. We want all manufacturers to participate in this initiative.”
During the roundtable discussions on day one of the conference, a business meeting was hosted by the visiting Mongolian companies to discuss joint solutions to supply chain issues as well as opportunities to expand and scale up partnerships and cooperation between the beginning and end stages of the supply chain. Mongolian herders also were able to address the audience of nearly 70 industry and brand directors and management level guests to share their perspectives on key challenges and the needs of their producer communities. The meeting was an important step in increasing the export of Mongolian cashmere as primary and final finished products to the international market.
Series of Talks on Sustainability
Ms. Narantsetseg, the head of Yav Bulag Herder Cooperative in Khentii Province, Umnudelger soum, shared a presentation on the “Trends of Herder Cooperatives” that outlined key rangeland issues such as environmental impact risks, and how the SFA Cashmere Standard Certification process is / can address these issues.
Chris Gaffney, CEO of Johnstons of Elgin, shared the perspectives of a leading Scottish brand and the shifting mindsets of its consumer base when it comes to sustainability. He concluded by addressing the herders directly: “Our communities are only here because your communities do all the work to produce this miracle product.”
Mongolian processors also had the chance to address the audience, sharing their concerns about climate change and the impact this is having on cashmere herders. They emphasized the importance of mitigating these risks in order to protect the quality of fibre moving up the chain, as well as the longevity of the producer system. They presented possible solutions for supplementing livestock feed in the winter, protecting the diversity of goat genetics, and for diversifying herder income. They also called for increased investment in Mongolian processors, particularly in spinning factories, in order to increase capacity and meet market demand.
Textile Exchange and the SFA shared on update on the new Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) project taking place, which aims to fill an important information gap of the impact of cashmere on the land and on livelihoods. Cashmere is one of the harder LCAs to undertake due to the varied landscapes and traditional communities it is produced in. Cashmere from Afghanistan, China and Mongolia are produced in very different ways, with landscapes ranging from desert, mountain steppe, grassland, and farm-based environments. Data collection for the LCA project will conclude in Q1 or Q2 of 2024 and provide a solid foundation for developing accurate impact reporting in the future. Six provinces in Mongolia and six provinces in China will be assessed and included in the report.
After the talks were concluded, guests were invited to break-out into tables of 6-10 to discuss supply chain challenges and opportunities currently faced at the herder, processor, manufacturer and brand levels. The main challenges identified at herder level included climate change, pasture degradation, fluctuations in market price, supply shortages, and animal disease. Opportunities to address these challenges included identifying and supporting diverse income sources for herders that might include other rangeland products, implementing programmes to protect pure goat fibre and livestock genetics, ensure herders are connected to the rest of the supply chain and that there is sufficient transparency around their work and impacts, and to incorporate requirements and guidance on carrying capacity into the SFA Cashmere Standard certification.
Challenges at the processor and manufacturing level of the cashmere supply chain included a lack of transparency due to long and complex supply chains, low margins for profit, competition from companies producing cheaper products, labour skills shortage, as well as auditing cost and capacity. To combat these challenges, the groups identified various opportunities including creating a global consensus on fibre quality thresholds, low interest rate loans for processors, encouraging green financing investment into cashmere processing, and tightening up the length of the supply chain in order to improve transparency.
Brands also faced a variety of challenges unique to them. These included democratisation – which was seen as both a positive and negative impact on their operations, faltering perceptions of cashmere due to lobbying groups against natural fibres, lack of consumer education about the benefits of natural fibres, and access to reliable and accurate information on cashmere impact (LCA’s). Solutions for these challenges included the funding of Life Cycle Assessment projects to provide the industry with cashmere impact data that can be shared with consumers, receiving precise ingredient information of chemicals used in cashmere processing, developing an easier way to communicate what certification is and how it works for the benefit of their consumers, and finally the possibility of the SFA becoming recognised in EU Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).
At the closing of the talks, Fabio Garzena, president of CCMI provided closing remarks, “Many things have changed for the textile industry over the years, especially for cashmere and other natural fibres. Technology, better organisation, new innovations have all improved the productivity and quality of the these product systems… Today, our biggest challenge is for the cashmere industry to keep up with the rapidly evolving market landscape and demands in order to arrive at a more sustainable and transparent supply chain… I think it is clear to everyone that all players in the supply chain have a responsibility to accept the burden of added complexity and costs in order to protect the long-term viability of our industry. We need to be ready to adapt to a system that is under development, and support ongoing modifications and improvements that are needed… We are all connected, each stage of the supply chain being dependent on the rest. But we also have to be fair with how our common challenges impact each stage with different weight and protect those who experience the biggest impact: herders.”
On the last day of the conference, guests disembarked on a three site factory tour. For some, it was their first exposure to the cashmere manufacturing process. Guests first visited the Pettinatura Di Verrone facility, followed by a visit to Loro Piana, the world’s largest manufacturer of textiles, where they saw the Quarona Showroom, spinning plant, lab, and finally the weaving and finishing plant.
The tour marked the end of the conference, and guests were encouraged to stay tuned on SFA communications channels for updates on the next event of the year – the Natural Fibre Connect annual conference in September. Following the success of the Biella conference, and the unique opportunities it offered in connecting the entire cashmere supply chain, it was proposed that the meeting become a global tradition and grow to include even more participation from cashmere herders.
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.
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