• Home
  • News
  • Business
  • Aid by Trade’s CmiA cotton and The Good Cashmere Standard director on providing sustainable solutions

Aid by Trade’s CmiA cotton and The Good Cashmere Standard director on providing sustainable solutions

By Simone Preuss


Scroll down to read more


Without a doubt, much has changed when it comes to the fashion industry's acceptance of certified raw materials such as sustainable cotton and cashmere. While initially considered ‘nice to have’, sustainable materials are now a must for many fashion companies. At the end of January, the Aid by Trade Foundation introduced the first worldwide cashmere standard. FashionUnited already talked with Tina Stridde, managing director of the Aid by Trade Foundation, about the Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative back in 2016. In a second interview, she now sums up the last four years and how The Good Cashmere Standard came about.

Tina Stridde visits the companies in China herself and has already been on site twice, including the initial fact-finding mission, which was carried out together with animal welfare experts. The Good Cashmere Standard covers both the farmers and the next level, the buying and dehairing stations. These also have to meet certain criteria, such as storing the certified cashmere separately, which is very important.

In contrast to Aid by Trade’s experience with cotton, certified cashmere is actively in demand with companies wanting sustainably produced cashmere. German clothing retailer Peter Hahn, who is now a partner and contributed his many years of cashmere expertise to the development of the Aid by Trade Foundation's cashmere standard, was the first to join. In the meantime, Danish clothing group Bestseller, Swedish fashion group Hennes & Mauritz (especially for its brand Cos), German fashion house Hugo Boss, US clothing retailer J.Crew, US women's fashion brand Madewell, German fashion brand Miles and French clothing company Lacoste have also joined the project. The more variety of companies means the more different are their customers and their needs. The range of products therefore extends from the more affordable to the more upscale segment, but all insist on good quality.

Ms. Stridde, how has The Good Cashmere Standard been received?

So far, the production is still small, but the demand is huge. That did surprise me. This year, around 300 tonnes of dehaired cashmere will be produced under The Good Cashmere Standard, with around three tonnes of uncleaned wool corresponding to one tonne of dehaired cashmere.

How is the verification implemented?

Verifications or farm inspections are carried out at different times of the year so that they are not predictable and so that conditions can be checked at different times, for example during shearing, in winter, when lambs are born or when it is cold or wet and the goats have to be housed indoors.

The wool producers list all the farmers that they are working with. The farmers then submit a comprehensive self-assessment and have to fulfil three main exclusion criteria to qualify - i.e. not using child labour, not mistreating their animals and adhering to a list of banned pesticides that cannot be used under any circumstances. There are a number of additional criteria, some of which are ‘nice to have’ and others an absolute must.

What happens after a farm or business qualifies?

It is not only about supplying certified cashmere, but also about mentioning the cashmere businesses with which the clothing companies have worked so far to enable the network to grow. We started with the Erdos Cashmere Group, which is a very close partner and from whose know-how we have benefited a lot. The company is very active and currently the largest supplier of cashmere.

Do the participating farmers get a premium?

No, they don’t. In terms of the profit model, the cashmere standard is based on the CmiA standard and works through a licensing fee paid by the buyers. The farmers pay nothing because they are supposed to profit from the standard. However, they must commit themselves to ensuring that all the cashmere produced is certified. In return, they can improve their knowledge through complementary training, for example in veterinary medicine, the equipment used or the animals' access to water through watering holes.

To what extent are the farmers involved in the process?

Communication with the farmers is good and they are fully involved; so-called "extension officers" of the manufacturers talk to them on a daily basis. The farmers have literally just been waiting for the cashmere standard and were immediately ready to be involved. They want to prove that cashmere is produced in a good way so that cashmere has a future. Thanks to the new standard, consumers and companies do not have to do without cashmere and can wear certified cashmere products with a clear conscience.

How extensive is the network so far?

We have created an incredible amount of transparency. We have registered about 1,500 suppliers, the smallest of which is a family business with 14 goats and the largest is one with tens of thousands of goats. Accordingly, the animals are seen as an important source of income or even as a family member.

Currently, The Good Cashmere Standard only covers suppliers in Inner Mongolia. Are there plans to expand to other areas?

For the moment, this is still a dream of the future. Also, Inner Mongolia with its goat farms is the most important production area on which we are currently focusing. The standard has been adapted to this area. In other areas such as Mongolia, for example, there are nomadic systems or the situation is different with land use or, for example, desertification in China, so the standard cannot simply be adopted anywhere.

Has The Good Cashmere Standard been adopted faster than CmiA cotton?

Many companies are afraid of the pressure from civil society and have therefore ramped up their sustainability efforts. There is interest on the corporate side and there are expectations on the consumer side. So things are going well over all.

Have other CmiA cotton partners come forward among buyers?

CmiA is definitely on its way ahead; we are now recording a 20 percent increase and around one million farmers produce 600,000 tonnes of CmiA cotton per year. The fact that large discounters like Aldi have come on board has helped. They simply buy very large quantities and that makes it easier throughout the supply chain.

By now, African cotton has also become better known and companies are specifically asking for it. However, we still have the situation that more certified cotton is being produced than there is demand for. It is sold in any case and the farmers do not feel the financial impact. If no licensing fee is received, then the Aid by Trade Foundation makes up for it. But accordingly, less money is then available for training and other additional services.

What about sustainability in general, has anything changed since our last conversation three and a half years ago?

Yes, absolutely. What Aid by Trade recommended already ten years ago has now been understood. We are thrilled at how deeply the subject has penetrated. While we used to have to give presentations along the lines of "Why sustainability?", now companies are seriously addressing the issue. There is also an obligation to become organic, for example, and companies are prepared to go down this rocky road. It used to be more difficult to maintain this kind of commitment. We are now seen as a solution provider and no longer as a nuisance.

Photos: M. Kuhn for Aid by Trade Foundation

Aid by Trade Foundation
The Good Cashmere Standard