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Buy less and buy better

Updated: Apr 4, 2022


A commitment to sustainability is at the heart of Johnstons of Elgin brand values. The company have worked with natural, renewable, biodegradable fibres since 1797 and strive to reduce their environmental footprint year after year.

‘We aim to tread lightly, but we know we still have work to do.

We want you to wear and love your Johnstons of Elgin products for many years. With this in mind, we design products that can be worn and passed down through the generations. The single greatest commitment we can all make to sustainability is to buy less and buy better’.


Circularity centres on extending the life of resources. High-quality natural fibres are inherently long-lasting, and fine craftsmanship helps keep products functional as well as beautiful for as long as possible. Johnstons collaboration with Cashmere laundry and repair specialists Cashmere Circle facilitates invisible mending and reconditioning or repurposing of knitted garments. In the mills, a valuable use for excess yarn is found where possible, or it can be broken down to be used in other products. Ultimately, these biodegradable fibres can be composted at the end of their life.

Sustainable Fibre Alliance

Johnstons of Elgin is one of three founding members of the Sustainable Fibre Alliance, 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. Chief Executive of Johnstons of Elgin sits on the SFA board and is an active participant in many SFA initiatives.

Baby love

Johnstons of Elgin’s beautiful Baby Cashmere collection is not only incredibly soft and gentle on baby’s delicate skin; it’s also created with the future of the planet in mind.

By working to preserve grasslands and support herding families at the source of these fine cashmere fibres, the company craft each of these cashmere pieces with care to help ensure that they last for a lifetime. These little cashmere cardigans, gloves and booties are hand-knitted in the heart of Scotland, using natural, biodegradable fibres, reflecting Johnstons of Elgin’s enduring commitment to sustainability.

Sustainability Awards

In 2018 and 2019, the company presented the first Johnstons of Elgin Sustainability Awards, with financial incentives, to the best herders and communities. These awards are designed to ensure that best practice is recognised, rewarded and encouraged. They receive a tremendous amount of attention in Mongolia, increasing the focus on sustainability issues and helping herders understand that global consumers stand beside them in their sustainability efforts.

Ethically Sourced Wool

Johnstons share a long history with the softest, highest quality Australian Merino Wool. The first merino sheep were introduced to Australia in 1797, the same year Johnstons of Elgin was established. The company continue to support the Australian merino-growing industry, helping to maintain the economy in an area where the land is best suited to this use. The company now only buy 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. RWS certification provides complete traceability of wool and confirms that farms follow land management methods that protect soil health and biodiversity.


Johnstons of Elgin take pride in their Cashmere products' longevity and love nothing more than hearing that a jumper or scarf has been loved for many years. They understand, however, that damage can happen, and a hole in a treasured design can be disappointing. The team collaborate with conscious knitwear aftercare company Cashmere Circle to offer a luxury, environmentally mindful repair, revive and recycling service, unlike any other. Cashmere Circle’s repair service can lovingly refurbish your favourite Johnstons of Elgin piece, restoring it to its former glory and extending its life. From invisible mending of moth holes to larger bespoke repairs, their team of experienced craftspeople will mend your knitted garments and return them to you like new.


Carbon emissions have broad-ranging effects on the environment as well as on the health of individuals and organisms. The textile industry accounts for approximately 10% of global carbon emissions. As Scotland's only vertical mill, Johnstons of Elgin have a unique opportunity to address the use of carbon in every stage of their process and are continually working on ways to reduce their emissions. So far, the company have reduced their Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions directly from their own operations by 53% from 2016 to 2020.

Renewable Electricity

Johnstons of Elgin are fortunate to operate their mills in Scotland, where there is an increasingly abundant supply of electricity produced by wind and solar power. All of the electricity used at their manufacturing sites is purchased from renewable sources.

Ethical Choices

The company prioritise energy-efficient equipment when making new purchases and invest in energy-saving technologies wherever they can. For example, highly efficient heat exchangers are used in their dye vats to reduce energy use.

Less movement

The ability to dye, card, spin, weave or knit and finish products on-site reduce their products' movement. When products do need to be moved, they minimise airfreight, preferring transportation by land and sea.

Natural Fibres

99.88% of the fibres used in the Johnstons of Elgin product range is natural. 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. There are areas where small amounts of synthetic fibres are used – for example, elastane in trims. The company are actively looking at alternative materials for this purpose, which will perform at the level required for these high-quality products.

Microfibre Shedding

Synthetic fibres make up more than 60% of the world's clothing. Estimates vary, but each wash of synthetic clothing releases hundreds of thousands of microplastic fibres into the ocean. Microplastics in the ocean is an increasingly well-understood problem for our marine environment and microplastics are also shed into the whole environment through normal wear. Garments made from natural fibres shed particles that biodegrade naturally rather than accumulating for generations. The hygroscopic properties of wool and cashmere mean they need to be washed less frequently than synthetic fibres, and they can be laundered at lower temperatures, further reducing their environmental footprint.

Plastic in production process

Johnstons of Elgin are committed to reducing the number of single-use plastics within their production areas, and where they can't be eliminated, they move to closed-loop recycling systems. So far, the company have reduced the use of shrink wrap on site by 65%, and are looking at ways to reuse other plastic materials. For example, plastic bags used to transport products from manufacturing to retail will be washed and reused.

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