How Burberry makes cashmere better on the planet

As part of the five-year initiative, the product is working with goat herdsmen in Afghanistan to ensure that luxury fiber is produced as responsibly as possible. Here’s what you need to know

As winter approaches fast, it’s the season for officially cashmere jerseys. Soft, elegant, and very important for warmth, it is a key element of this time of year – especially for those of us at WFH with a brighter future. Sadly, our love of cashmere adds significant costs to the environment, especially in places like Mongolia, where overgrazing and climate change have resulted in an estimated 70% of timber damage, with a staggering 25 percent turn in the desert.

That’s why the Burberry Foundation — Burberry’s generous arm — has launched a five-year program to ensure cashmere is produced in a way that will be as sustainable as possible, as part of the luxury rehabilitation product (as evidenced by their recent partnership with British soccer player Marcus Rashford to help disadvantaged children). Based in Afghanistan, the cashmere program provides goat herdsmen with training on sustainable farming, harvesting techniques and animal welfare practices, helping them achieve high quality cashmere, and high prices for natural fiber.

“Cashmere is a very important raw material in the luxury fashion industry,” Pam Batty, secretary of the Burberry Foundation and VP’s corporate supervisor at Burberry, told Vogue. And they are well aware of the social and economic challenges [facing] the people of Afghanistan – plagued by years of conflict and deeply affected by climate change. ”

What does the Burberry cashmere initiative involve?

Although 90 percent of Afghan goats produce cashmere, most shepherds are unaware of its value as immature luxury items. “They are sitting on a gold mine, if the right strategies are used,” said Agnė Baltaduonytė, Oxfam’s defense chief in Afghanistan, who worked with Burberry on the project. “It starts with information: ‘You clean it up like this’, ‘You process it like this’.”

Helping goat herdsmen make collections enables them to obtain high prices for their cashmere. In the past, shepherds alone had to sell to middlemen rather than large sellers – meaning they would be paid very little. In less than three years, the program has helped raise the price of cashmere in Afghanistan from $ 17 per kg in 2017 to $ 31 per kg in 2019. collect their cashmere [together] and sell it for a hefty price, ”said Mohammad Ali Roshan, Oxfam’s cashmere program manager in Afghanistan.

Empowering women, who play a key role in these pastoral communities, is another key element of Burberry’s cashmere program. “Women are usually the ones who work with livestock, doing the lowest [difference between fine cashmere and coarser hair],” said Baltaduonytė, adding that 28 percent of the pastors who have supported the program so far are women.

How will the initiative help protect the environment?

Ensuring that shepherds in Afghanistan have financial security is important from an environmental point of view, too. “We see overgrazing, but it is not the cash that produces the situation – there is a wide variety of livestock produced by Afghan producers,” said Andrew Nobrega, director of global planning at PUR Projet, a project development company working on the project. “If we want to see a reduction in overcrowding, we need to improve the lives of producers so that they can adapt to help those environments in a better way.”

While land degradation from cashmere production is not a problem at the moment in Afghanistan, the program provides training in renewable farming techniques to prevent it from becoming one in the future. “We want to highlight the objectives of good veld management, which must revitalize the veld and extract carbon over time,” said Nobrega. Enabling herders to get a higher cashmere yield from a few goats will also help protect natural resources in the future: “We need [producers] to understand how to protect the sustainability of this system, so that they can continue to produce this [cashmere] permanently. ”

To build a more reliable fashion industry

The Burberry Foundation’s cashmere program demonstrates the impact fashion can have on local communities, by building closer relationships with manufacturers in the supply chain. “It’s about making a living,” Batty said, explaining how the climate crisis is affecting living conditions in Afghanistan. “Last year there was a severe drought, and it is getting worse. Building this resilience in ground communities is very important. ”

By tightening up now important consumer concerns, the project will help brands get more cashmere by adding a range of options offered. While recycled cashmere is becoming more popular with eco-conscious products, continuing to support the health of cashmere breeders remains crucial. “Re-use is a good thing from a climate perspective and resource perspective,” Nobrega explained. “At the same time, there is a real opportunity to improve the lives of vulnerable people, and to promote environmental protection; to find the right measure. ”

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