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H&M is Phasing Out Cashmere Because It’s Not Sustainable

H&M is phasing out conventional cashmere as part of its push to use only 100 percent sustainable materials by 2030.

“While cashmere is popular for its soft texture and known as a high-quality material, it comes with both environmental and animal-welfare challenges,” the Swedish retailer, which will stop placing orders on conventional cashmere by the end of 2020, said in a statement on Monday.

Cashmere, the supersoft cornerstone of every luxury assortment, is not an uncontroversial fiber. The voracious appetites of cashmere-bearing goats have contributed to the desertification of grasslands on the Patagonian steppe and the Mongolian plateau through overgrazing, conservationists say, while endangered animals endemic to the region risk further imperilment through tussles with herders, attacks from guard dogs, retaliatory killings on predators and greater forage scarcity.

Still, there have been efforts to ameliorate or even reverse the damage, from knitwear brand Naadam’s vertically integrated, ethically centered business model to Kering’s work with the Wildlife Conservation Group and local communities to minimize cashmere farming’s impact on the ecosystem. Recycled cashmere, which H&M feted in its autumn/winter ‘18 Conscious Exclusive collection, is another guilt-free option.

“We will continue to work for a more transparent supply chain, where cashmere is sourced from sustainable sources that are independently certified by standards that cover both animal welfare and environmental aspects,” H&M said. “If the cashmere industry in the future would meet our sustainability criteria, we could consider turning to virgin cashmere again.”

Today, 57 percent of all materials employed by the fast-fashion purveyor is either recycled or sustainably sourced, up from 35 percent a year ago. In the case of cotton, 95 percent of what H&M and its subsidiary brands (& Other Stories, Arket, Cheap Monday, Cos, Monki and Weekday) use is either recycled or sustainably sourced. “This means that we are close to reaching our goal of using 100 percent preferred cotton—organic cotton, recycled cotton and Better Cotton sourced through the Better Cotton Initiative—by 2020,” the retailer said.

According to Textile Exchange, a nonprofit organization that advocates the use of environmentally friendlier fibers, H&M is the No. 1 user of preferred cotton in the world and the second biggest user of recycled and organic cotton.