According to a recent feature from The Wall Street Journal, a growing number of brands are abandoning cashmere, as the uptick in production over the last few years is beginning to wreak havoc on the environment.
“The once-scarce fiber has become cheap enough for mass-market labels,” the story said, but “mass production… is fueling ecological destruction.”
“Millions of goats are chewing through the vast grasslands, known as steppe, that straddle the Mongolian-Chinese border,” the Journal reported. “Nearly 60% of Mongolian pasture land is degraded… including large swathes that have turned into desert.” In other words, the demand for cashmere is wiping out the exact set of conditions that make it possible in the first place.
And now, those deleterious effects are “attracting scrutiny from governments and environmental groups.” In one notable instance, PETA informed H&M of a seriously upsetting undercover investigation, prompting the company to “phase cashmere out of its product lineup by 2020.”
“We hope that it will be possible to source cashmere more sustainably in the future, and we want to contribute to making the industry more transparent and responsible,” H&M said in a statement.
Elsewhere, Kering is promoting a project that would encourage a more sustainable approach to grazing and Stella McCartney and Patagonia “have sworn off cashmere produced directly from goats in favor of garments made using cashmere scraps left over from workshops.”
While some meaningful steps are starting to be taken on the brand side, change is still lagging on the production side. As one expert explained, “It’s very difficult to engage the herder and explain that growing sustainable cashmere is a good thing to do… it’s very hard to go against the tradition of nomadic life.
Read more at The Wall Street Journal.