Yak Yarn as an Alternative to Cashmere

Knitwear fashion brand Tengri provides an alternative to unsustainable cashmere production by sourcing yak fibers from herder families in the Mongolian mountains.

Tengri produces knitwear and yarn from yak fibers, helping to substitute cashmere production. Cashmere goats are non-indigenous, domesticated animals bred for their fibers. Only the finest of fibers make it to market, resulting in
the majority of fibers being treated as waste. Yaks, on the other hand, are an indigenous breed living sustainably in the Mongolian mountains, which produce fibers considered a by-product of herders’ breeding. Tengri creates yak
yarn and fabrics from this by-product, producing three times as much in one metric ton of fiber as cashmere.
Tengri sources directly from co-operatives representing 1,500 nomadic herder families in Mongolia. The company enables Mongolia’s nomadic herder community to export goods directly to the international market without intermediary or third-party support.

Relevance of solution

Intensive grazing of cashmere goats and other environmentally damaging livestock has led to the consumption of up to 95% of forage across the Tibetan Plateau of Mongolia and northern India, leaving just 5% for wild animals to graze.1 Mongolia’s indigenous yaks offer a sustainable alternative, living symbiotically in the ecosystem, allowing plant species and other wildlife to regenerate and thrive.

Triple Bottom Line


By using an indigenous species of mountain yak, Tengri and the herders are helping to protect and preserve biodiversity in Mongolia.


Tengri’s international trading activity with nomadic herders has influenced the Mongolian government to grant new land and rights to herder families.2


Tengri’s support and supply chain grew from 398 families to 1,500 families in their first year of operation, and increased herder household income by 50%, according to the company.


  1. Berger, J. et al. “Globalization of the Cashmere Market and the Decline of Large Mammals in Central Asia.” Conservation Biology, vol. 27, Issue 4, pp. 679–689. (Aug. 2013.)
  2. Swiss Agency for Developmentand Cooperation. “SDC Green Gold Project.” (2014)