Cashmere has the highest impact environmentally out of all the raw materials we use in our production chain – roughly 100 times the environmental impact of wool.
As a brand, we are continuously looking for new ways to reduce our environmental impact, and as a result, we have ceased to use virgin cashmere in our knitwear collections. Instead, we are now using regenerated cashmere made from post-factory waste in Italy.
The environmental cost of cashmere
It takes 4 goats to produce enough fiber to make a single cashmere sweater – compare that to wool, where 1 sheep produces enough fiber to make up to 5 sweaters. Cashmere has therefore traditionally been considered a luxury fiber; however, today casual cashmere products are widely available as affordable goods. This increase in the global demand for cashmere and resulting increase in the goat population is destroying the grasslands in Mongolia.
Mongolia has historically been an ideal habitat for cashmere goats: with natural grasslands and cold climates, the region provided the perfect formula for raising goats to make one of the world’s finest fibers.
Cashmere goats are typically unfriendly to grasslands: grazing voraciously, consuming all greenery and ripping grass out by the roots. Their sharp hooves pierce the soil surface and once the soil crust is torn, the strong winds carry away the topsoil. Since the 1990s, as the goat population in Mongolia has increased fivefold, cashmere production has become a key environmental concern.
The result of this overpopulation is environmental desertification where grasslands were once rich. According to the United Nations Development Programme, 90 percent of Mongolia is fragile dry-land, under an increasing threat of desertification.
What we are doing
We have replaced all of our virgin cashmere knitwear with a regenerated cashmere yarn called Re.Verso™. The fabric is made in Italy from post-factory waste and has a 92% reduction in environmental impact when compared to virgin cashmere.
In 2015, cashmere made up only 0.13% of our overall raw material usage, but still accounted for 25% of our total environmental impact as calculated using the EP&L (Environmental Profit & Loss account). By using solely Re.Verso™ regenerated cashmere for our cashmere needs in 2016, we estimate our cashmere impact to be as low as 2%.
Additionally, we are working with partners including the Sustainable Fibre Alliance to support on-the-ground work in Mongolia to begin reversing the desertification that has taken place.