Home / News / Johnstons of Elgin: A commitment to continual sustainable development

Johnstons of Elgin: A commitment to continual sustainable development


Johnstons of Elgin has worked with the world’s finest natural, biodegradable fibres for 224 years. It takes time to create its luxurious, high-quality designs, and its woven and knitted products are made to last for more than a lifetime. The company is committed to continually improving its sustainability and reducing its environmental footprint.

Johnstons of Elgin

In April 2021, Johnstons of Elgin was proud to receive the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, for its work on sustainability. The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise is the most prestigious business awards programme in the world, and the Sustainable Development category recognises organisations developing products and services that have a positive impact on the environment, society and the economy.

The single most significant commitment we can all make to sustainability is to buy less and buy better. Johnstons’ beautifully crafted, high-quality products are made to last and will biodegrade naturally when they finally reach the end of their life. The firm is committed to improving sustainability across all aspects of its business.

Johnstons of Elgin SS23 Pitti Uomo

99.88% of the fibres used in the Johnstons of Elgin product range are natural

Johnstons of Elgin is committed to ensuring the wellbeing of the animals at the source of its fine fibres and protecting the environments in which they live. The firm is working hard to further reduce its carbon emissions.

Sustainable Fibre Alliance Johnstons of Elgin

In its Scottish mills, as many as 33 people are involved in creating a single scarf, rug or stole and between 32 and 37 might touch a jumper or cardigan before it is ready to be worn and loved. Far from contemporary fast fashion, this fine craftsmanship delivers elegant, timeless designs that you can enjoy for more than a lifetime.

Johnstons of Elgin works with many different natural fibres, including vicuna, cashmere and wool, and is committed to ensuring the welfare of the animals at their source.

Today, the fibres used are among the world’s finest, sourced from Australia, Afghanistan, China, Mongolia and Peru. Most products are made from fibre Johnstons, and the firm is working to move all fibre purchases to animal welfare certified sources. Fibres are selected to rigorous standards and subject to traditional manufacturing processes which are gentle with the environment, such as minimising bleaching and dyeing.

No chemicals listed in the ZDHC Manufacturing Restricted Substances List are used in the supply chain, while soft Scottish water means the products are intrinsically soft.

Fibres such as Cashmere and Merino Wool will biodegrade readily in cold water or soil, unlike fibres classed as non-biodegradable such as polyester, viscose and nylon, which will take between 20 and 200 years to degrade depending on conditions.

97% of manufacturing waste is recycled to create other products.

Johnstons of Elgin’s commitment to its people

Since July 1st 2019, Johnstons of Elgin has been registered with the Living Wage Foundation, which sets a minimum wage standard higher than the government-set minimum wage in the United Kingdom. The firm is the largest textile manufacturer to work to this standard.

In 2018, the company was awarded the Gold Investors in Young People (IIYP) Good Practice Award, which recognises its commitment to attracting and recruiting young people and their support, development and retention. In 2019, Johnstons of Elgin was named Exemplary Employer of Choice at the cherries, an awards ceremony recognising excellence in HR, training and recruitment in Scotland.

In a world where businesses are increasingly office-focused and processes are becoming automated, Johnstons works hard to attract the right individuals into its hands-on apprenticeship programmes and treat all employees fairly and respectfully. The company shares skills passed down through generations while providing training in cutting-edge technology to allow its highly skilled craftsmen and women to produce the finest quality products.

Johnstons of Elgin

Johnstons of Elgin is an accredited Scottish Qualification Agency Assessment Centre, and more than 100 of its employees have qualified through Modern Apprenticeships.

Every one of the company’s team members is charged with constantly improving and updating their skills. Each process has been fine-tuned by the in-house team for over 150 years, since Johnstons of Elgin first produced cashmere products in 1851. No one has more experience of processing fine cashmere and no one has more control over every stage of production. Experience counts, and over 100 employees have been with the firm for 20 years or more.

A founder member of the Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA)

As part of the Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA), Johnstons works closely with Mongolian Cashmere goat-herders to address these environmental issues in the spirit of their own culture and traditions.

Sustainable Fibre Alliance Johnstons of Elgin

Johnstons of Elgin is one of three founding members of the SFA, a non-profit international organisation formed in 2015 to work with the extended cashmere supply chain, from herders to retailers.

With a focus on restoring grasslands, ensuring animals’ well-being, and securing herders’ livelihoods, the SFA funds specific programmes in Mongolia to train communities and promote sustainability.

Johnstons of Elgin established the first course in Sustainable Pasture Management, managed on behalf of the company by the SFA, in 2019. Called “Haraacai” (the Mongolian word for swallow), this course teaches sustainable herding methods to nomadic herders’ children. It combines modern sustainability theories with the traditional skills passed down through generations embedded within their centuries-old nomadic culture.

Specially developed textbooks combine contemporary regenerative theories with the traditional methods of Mongolian nomadic culture. The course supports the herders’ view of themselves as custodians of their environment, and a total of 432 students graduated in the first year.

In 2018 and 2019, the first Johnstons of Elgin Sustainability Awards were presented, with financial incentives, to the best herders and communities. These awards are designed to ensure that best practice is recognised, rewarded and encouraged.

Sustainable Fibre Alliance Johnstons of Elgin

The SFA is developing a chain of custody model for tracing fibre from SFA-certified sources along the supply chain, which now traces certified Cashmere all the way to the final product.

Johnstons of Elgin has pledged that by 2024, as larger quantities become available, all of its cashmere will be purchased from SFA sources.

Only using Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) certified wool

Johnstons of Elgin now only buys wool that has been Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) certified. The RWS is a voluntary global standard that addresses sheep’s welfare and the land they graze on.

Responsible Wool Standard Johnstons of Elgin

RWS certification provides complete traceability of wool and confirms that farms follow land management methods that protect soil health and biodiversity. It also means all of the wool bought is non-mulesed.

Designed to last

Johnstons of Elgin says: “Our high-quality natural fibres are inherently long-lasting, and our fine craftsmanship helps keep our products functional as well as beautiful for as long as possible. We offer a repair service for our knitted Cashmere products to extend their lifespan.”

Visit www.johnstonsofelgin.com to find out more.

Think Sustainability. Think Scotland for fashion and textiles