John Lewis & Partners has announced plans to fund a three-year programme in Inner Mongolia in a bid to safeguard the future of the cashmere sector.

The three-year programme is run by the Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA) and aims to support the expansion of the SFA’s new Cashmere Standard from Mongolia to the Inner Mongolia region of China.

Climate change and increased global demand for cashmere are putting pressure on the fragile ecosystems the cashmere industry relies upon. In response to this, SFA developed a global standard to promote best practice in land management, animal welfare, fibre processing and supply chain transparency; ensuring the long-term viability of the cashmere sector.  

John Lewis is funding the training of 420 herders in Inner Mongolia on the global standard. Training will be provided by a leading animal welfare NGO, the International Cooperation Committee of Animal Welfare (ICCAW), together with experts from a local agricultural university. Once the herders have completed their training, they will carry out self-assessments against the requirements of the Standard and undergo independent farm inspections before being given SFA accreditation.

In the first year, the programme will focus on animal welfare, before expanding to cover the protection of biodiversity and how to secure herder livelihoods in the long term.  

“It’s very important to us and our customers that all of the raw materials in our products are sourced in a way that’s good for the animals, land and people involved in their production,” said Marija Rompani, partner and director of ethics and sustainability for the John Lewis Partnership. “We have committed to ensuring all key raw materials in our own-brand products will be from sustainable or recycled sources by 2025.

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“We’re very proud to be a pioneer member of the Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA) and to play a part in developing their global standard for sustainable cashmere production. This work will protect the welfare of the goats, the land and the livelihoods of thousands of families who are dependent upon the production of cashmere fibres.”

Una Jones, CEO and founder of the SFA added: “We are delighted to have the support of John Lewis, a respected brand, and their suppliers. Together with our other pioneering partners we are confident we can lead the way in developing the cashmere industry to achieve consistent high standards and protect the livelihoods of those dependent upon it.”