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Tengri : Pioneering a fully transparent, natural and sustainable supply-chain in fashion

London, United KingdomArkhangai Province, Mongolia
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Tengri is a brand built by people unwilling to settle for the status quo. We aspire to bring noble fibres to the forefront of the fashion industry, helping to protect wildlife and support the nomadic herders’ way of life, which is threatened by rapid industrialisation and land degradation.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if we can offer consumers better products that are beautifully made with integrity, while simultaneously serving to protect bio-diversity, wild animals and marginalised people living in rural and remote places?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

We live in a world of choice. Sometimes those choices are unknowingly responsible for human suffering, furthering poverty, decimating wildlife and our environment. Unsustainable levels of environmentally damaging cashmere is resulting in wild animals becoming the ultimate 'fashion victims', destroying fertile land and affecting the livelihoods of nomadic herders, threatening to destroy their traditional way of life forever.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Tengri noble yarns provide consumers with a choice – a sustainable alternative to the environmentally destructive cashmere industry – without compromising on ethics, aesthetics or quality. By promoting yak hair as Tengri noble yarns, we have created a strong luxury brand that is both attractive to discerning fashion consumers and which represents our ‘fairshare’ business model. The Tengri collective movement brings together industry leaders in design, fashion, textile technology, business, conservation biology, animal health, manufacturing, research, academia and media involved in shaping the fashion and textile industry. Collectively, we have created and piloted a new business model with supply-chain provenance.


2013 New Brand Awards - Tengri logo wins international design recognition, 2015 AOP Photography Awards - Tengri brand images wins under Open Series, 2015 Sustainia - Future Sustainability Leaders Award (Commended) http://www.sustainia.me/leaders/#nancy
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The solution supports social empowerment and livelihoods of nomadic herders through our 'fairshare' business model, economic activities achieving an increase of herder household income and alleviating poverty. We will support the preservation of biodiversity, prevention of land-desertification through our trading activities by supporting a naturally sustainable and indigenous species of yak in western Mongolia, allowing plant species and wildlife to regenerate and thrive. Tengri offers a new, replicable and ethical business model while also introducing and applying new clean technologies with closed-loop systems of textile fabrication, with the potential to revolutionize the current supply-chain model in the fashion industry.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Tengri has already created measureable positive political, social and economic impact: • Our trading activities originally started with 398 families in March 2014. Our work has now extended its reach to more than 1,500 herder families (approximately 4,500 people) • Our activities have resulted in 175% increased earnings per herder household involved and trading with Tengri, compared to those not involved • Tengri's international trading activity with nomadic herders has influenced the Mongolian government to grant land and herding rights to herder families involved with Tengri, rights that were not previously recognised • Our work has enabled the nomadic herder community in Mongolia for the first time to trade and export goods directly on the international market without any intermediary support or third party intervention or assistance.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Tengri intends to scale its model and operations into other fibres and other remote pastoral communities around the world with our ‘fairshare’ business approach. We intend to enable direct ownership of the company through shares and apply our yarn technologies to increase value of products produced in collaboration with identified communities in need, and cooperate with them to develop local and sustainable materials for the fashion and textiles industry. We intend to raise the bar and set the new standard for ethical, fair and sustainable fashion and its associated supply chain.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Tengri has a very simple and sustainable business. We purchase fibre direct from nomadic herder families. It is then processed to a high grade by British and Italian factories into yarns. Our knitwear and accessories are designed in London and made to the highest level of craftsmanship in Scotland and England. We have a very simple revenue model, where yarns and fibres are sold to the world’s top luxury fashion houses and textile industry leaders

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Shokay is another socially responsible textiles brand which uses Tibetan yak down. They blend lower-priced fibres such as wool, bamboo and cotton in their products. Unlike Shokay, Tengri's beginnings started as a joint-venture with herders directly. The Khangai mountain yaks are a different species to those of Tibet and China, which are available at volume. The Khangai yak is very rare and limited on the global market, where we sell relatively low quantities at premium price points to maintain strong product differentiation while using a different business model.

Founding Story

Tengri was founded by Nancy Johnston in Sept 2013. She was inspired to start a social enterprise while travelling in Mongolia, where she became aware of the threats posed by rapid industrialisation and land degradation. Living with herder families revealed to Nancy how much they lacked – a secure and fair income, land rights recognition, a political voice and future prospects of prosperity for their children. As a trained social worker and with a background in fighting social inequality, Nancy set up Tengri in collaboration with the herder families, to establish a fair and equitable socially minded business to take yak fibre to new markets.


Nancy Johnston, Founder & CEO: Strong track record for leading high performance and award-winning teams, specialist knowledge in designing strategic and targeted marketing campaigns involving social innovation and technology • Winnie Lee, Director of Brand & Art, Co-Founder: 15 years’ industry experience, specialist in digital design spatial/experiential design, below-the-line advertising, direct marketing, packaging • Carlo Volpi, Director of Design, Co-Founder: Experienced and award-winning knitwear and textiles designer/artisanal maker, teacher at the Royal College of Art and Goldsmiths University, fashion blogger, writer for knittingindustry.com and trend researcher/designer for Pitti Filati and Rowan • Ed Rendell, Copywriter & Brand Strategy Lead, Co-Founder: 17 years in marketing agencies with clients such as Apple, Boeing, Nokia, O2, supported the development of Troubadour, a luxury leather goods company • Keith Angus, Managing Director: Experienced senior-level manager with track record of commercial achievement, extensive background in branded consumer and luxury fashion businesses • Alan Thomas, Financial Director: Very experienced director in early stage, fundraising and exits, specialist and broad-spectrum knowledge in finance, investment and global business • Anthony Lahert, Non-executive Director: Highly experienced consumer sector NED, served on numerous board level roles in organisations in UK, Europe and USA • Valerie De La Rochette, Marketing Manager: 15 years’ experience of multi-channel marketing, specialist in marketing, direct mail, digital marketing, communication, brand management, customer engagement, publishing, education, languages • Michelle Chan, Legal Advisor: extensive experience in the field of human rights law and development engaged in representation, research, and advice for human rights groups, non-profits, start-ups and creative professionals worldwide • Jonathan Macklin, Information Systems Manager: experienced in all areas of online marketing and eCommerce sites, specialties include SEO, PPC, display, campaign strategy, site structure, eCommerce, blogging, email marketing, analytics
Value Chain: Where does your work fit into the apparel value chain? [check all that apply]

Raw Materials, Manufacturing, Consumption.

Your Role: What is your relationship to the apparel industry? [check all that apply]

Advocate/Organizer, Brand Representative, Designer, Farmer or Farmer Association Representative, Researcher, Sourcing Manager / Supply Chain Manager, Supplier - contractor, Supplier - subcontractor, Technologist.

Target Population: What stakeholder groups do you engage or empower in your work? [check all that apply]

Brands, Consumers, Corporations, Designers, Farmer or Farmer Associations, Factory Workers, Policymakers, Retailers - Department Store, Retailers - Specialty Store, Retailers - Mass-merchandise Chain, Sourcing Manager / Supply Chain Manager, Supplier - subcontractor, Technologists, Trading Companies, Women.

● Intervention Focus: What are you trying to achieve / influence? [check all that apply]

Accountability, Conscious Consumerism, Environmentally Sustainable Practices, Recycling or Circular Economy, Transparency.

Lever for Change: Select up to 3 ways your work is helping to transform the industry.

Capacity Building, Media, Technology.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

Consumers Aren't Motivated to Care: Neither Compelling Reasons Nor Easy Means to Change Consumption Habits, Sustainability is Not Yet in the DNA: Fast Fashion’s Current Model Disincentivizes Value-Driven Economies.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Activate Local Know-how for Driving Solutions: Build Opportunities for Workers to Become Leaders, Disrupt Business as Usual: Target Key Players Who Can Influence the Bottom Line.

Innovation Inspiration: When you first conceived of your project, did you think of it as applicable to the apparel industry?


If you answered "no" to the previous question, which industry was your project originally aimed at transforming?

● Replicating in the Apparel Industry: If your project didn't initially target the apparel industry, how are you specifically tailoring it to do so now?
Are you nurturing or inspiring others to be changemakers? If so, how?

Yes, I have trained and enabled the first herders in history to export and trade internationally on the global market direct.

● Tell us about the partnerships that enhance your approach. How have you collaborated with others in the industry to increase your impact?

Tengri partnerships include research & education activities with Responsible Eco Sourcing Platform and Central Saint Martins


A beautifully constructed proposal with a huge wow factor! Beautiful products blissfully presented. Thank you for the chance to review...

Nancy Johnston's picture

Thanks for taking the time to review. Your comments are much appreciated.