Norlha's Social Impact

What does it mean to be a sustainable business? At Norlha, we believe sustainability not only includes reducing our impact on the environment, but more importantly the creation of long-term, sustainable employment, especially for communities at risk. 


Nomadism as a way of life is on the decline, with the Plateau grasslands facing much overgrazing. Tibetans are forced to move from their villages into the large metropolises, ending their traditions and culture. 

Norlha looks to provide an alternative to this, providing world-class training and employment opportunities to allow Tibetans to stay in their home villages, keeping their families, culture, and destiny in their hands. 


Our artisans are empowered, receiving high wages, comfortable working environment, breakfast and lunch, and an array of training and community programs, from basketball to yoga to language classes. 

Even more so, our female employees are empowered. The life of a nomadic woman is very difficult, working upwards of 20 hours a day with constant chores. Women at Norlha are now earning an income, working comfortable hours, and providing for the family. They now also particpate in social activities like athletics, practices once foreign to them. 


Much of Norlha's work is handwoven using hand looms, requiring no electricity. Solar panels are used. Norlha uses all natural materials in yak wool, cashmere, silk, and sheep wool. The Yak wool falls off naturally from the animal, its collection causing no harm. Environmentally-friendly dyes are used, and buildings are created from wood and earth, with lots of natural lighting. 


Norlha's Board are all foreign pro-bono experts providing their expertise in various areas. Norlha's Management team are all local employees, and Norlha works with the local community Village Elders and Monastery. All of Norlha's marketing is done in-house, relying on world-class pro-bono experts who come to the Plateau to train our local employees. 


The products we create are uniquely Tibetan, a product our artisans are proud to create. Yak khullu, unknown to the fashion industry a decade ago, is considered one of the finest textiles in the world - extremely soft yet extremely durable. Norlha uses the finest yak khullu on the Plateau. 

Those who purchase our products become an integral part of the conscious consumerism cycle. On average, a scarf purchase will support a family for an entire month. We encourage those looking for their next outfit to ask "Who Made Your Clothes"? 

Norlha relies heavily on its e-commerce channels, which are ran by our local team. This direct connection with the consumer allows for a higher percentage of income to stay within the village going directly to local Tibetans.

(Can we show all of this growth over time? Perhaps get stats from a midpoint year to show its growth from beginning in 2007 to present)


  • Total Number of Employees from Local Community: 129


  • Percentage of Employees from the Local Community: 98%


  • Percentage of Female Employees: 61%


  • Percentage of Ritoma Households with at Least One Norlha Employee: 31%


  • Percentage of Yak Wool Suppliers Who Live on the Tibetan Plateau: 80% (4/5)


  • Number of Employees No Longer Dependent on Herding and Overgrazing: 116


  • Reduction in Number of Potential Overgrazing Animals: Up to 1,450 yak or 5,800 sheep


  • Percentage Reduction of Total Possible Number of Overgrazing Animals in Local Community

    • 23.2% of sheep

    • 15.7% of yak


  • Pesticides Used: We use no pesticides in any step of the process

  • Average Employee Age
  • Average Family Household Size



Why are Norlha’s prices on the higher end?

Norlha's product value comes from two core beliefs: 

 1) Good wages. As seen in the statistics above we employ over 100 local Tibetans and pay them good wages. This is in addition to two healthy meals per day and holistic approaches to job training and healthy living. Our employees are very happy and it is our goal to generate as much employment as we can in the community. 

2) High quality products. We use the best and finest materials in each of our products. The processes we use - hand-weaving, hand-spinning, hand-knitting - by our artisans ensure the finest quality. 

Unfortunately, many consumers do not mind buying the inexpensive products from the inexpensive clothing chains, and do not question these prices. In many cases these clothes were made by cheap labor in poor countries, where the profits are not kept locally.

In these prevalent situations the consumer gets a cheap price, the owners and middle-men take a large profit, and the artisans are taken advantage of.

This is not the case with Norlha. Norlha is proving that high-end fashion and social impact can exist without compromising the other.

How does my purchase make an impact?

As Norlha's success grows, more Tibetans can be employed and similar business models can be born, changing the livelihood of Tibetans across the entire Plateau. In addition to owning a scarf made with the highest quality and care, your purchase directly impacts the lives of these Tibetans.

Does Norlha help local herders?

Norlha purchases 10 tons of the finest yak wool from local herders. This helps a few local herders, but they will sell their wool to someone regardless. Other yak wool companies may use this as marketing to promote their social impact, but this impact is quite minimal. The real impact comes from generating sustainable employment for Tibetans, giving them the skills and training to be successful in the regional and global market. 

How does Norlha choose its employees?

The hiring process entirely involves the local community - the village elders of Ritoma's six clans inform their clan of a job opening, and provide Norlha's local village advisors with a list of interested nomads. The local village advisors then meet with Norlha's Tibetan Management to interview and select the next hire. 

How do Norlha employees spend their new income?

The introduction of Norlha to the area has slowly generated a new middle class, able to support their families. Dependency on the extremely difficult life of herding has been alleviated. Families can spend money on newer, healthier foods. Children can wear less-worn clothing. Some even have been able to build additions to their homes and purchase vehicles.

How is your marketing done?

All of Norlha's marketing is done in-house. Norlha CEO, Dechen, herself a Tibetan and married to a local Tibetan, does all of the photography. All of the models are employees at our Atelier. The founder, Dechen's mother, is the Creative Director and does all of the layouts for marketing materials. Generous friends and volunteers help maintain the website and other aspects of the business.  

Do you have any Volunteer opportunities?

Yes! Please email us at