The North Face is committed to improving animal welfare and traceability in the goose down and feather supply chain. We created the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) to help to ensure that our down does not come from animals that have been subject to any unnecessary harm, such as force-feeding or live-plucking, and to provide a traceability system to validate the original source of down used in The North Face products. Certified down will be incorporated into our products starting in Fall 2015 with a goal of 100 percent certification by Fall 2017.
The North Face uses down in outerwear and sleeping bags because of its superior insulating properties and warmth-to-weight ratio. A couple of years ago, we became aware of the potential mistreatment of animals in the food supply chain from which we sourced our down.
We had been relying on self-declarations from our suppliers but it became clear that this was not sufficient. The down supply chain is very complex and the animals and raw materials typically change hands many times, making validation difficult. Due to this complexity, we were very deliberate in our development of the RDS and sought input from experts in animal welfare, standard development and materials traceability. A team from The North Face traveled to China and Eastern Europe to evaluate our supply chains in those regions. Because down can be sourced from small farms as well as large slaughterhouses, the team evaluated everything from hatcheries to family farms to processing facilities
We developed a standard that addresses the down supply’s diverse challenges by tapping the expertise of two key partners, Control Union Certifications, an accredited third-party certification body with expertise in agriculture and farm systems, and Textile Exchange, a global nonprofit dedicated to sustainability in the apparel and textile industry.
The North Face gifted ownership of the RDS to Textile Exchange, which will allow any organization seeking to source down more responsibly to use this tool. Adam Mott, Director of Sustainability explains that, “Our hope is that the collective use of the RDS will effectively promote positive animal welfare conditions and traceability in the down supply chain at a much larger scale than we could accomplish alone. We firmly believe that by driving positive change across the global supply chain, the RDS will benefit the industry at large.”