"It’s exciting to see that the collective use of the RDS across the industry is effectively promoting positive animal welfare conditions and traceability in the down supply chain at such a large scale."


-James Rogers, Senior Sustainability Manager

 

We are committed to improving animal welfare and traceability in our goose down and feather supply chain. We use down in our outerwear, sleeping bags, footwear, and accessories because of its superior insulating properties and warmth-to-weight ratio. In 2014 we launched the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) in partnership with Textile Exchange, a global nonprofit dedicated to sustainability in the apparel and textile industry, and Control Union Certifications, an accredited third-party certification body with expertise in agriculture and farm systems. The RDS ensures that our down does not come from animals that have been subjected to any unnecessary harm, such as force-feeding or live-plucking, provides traceability in our supply chain, and helps validate and track the down used in our products from farm to finished garment. We started using RDS-certified down in our products in Fall 2015 and since Fall 2016 we have only purchased RDS-certified down. All of our down products are certified to the RDS.

The RDS has gained great momentum and adoption across the supply chain. In 2016, more than 3,000 farms across the world were certified to the RDS, covering an estimated 400 million birds at the farm level. More than 50 brands have started using RDS-certified down in their own products.

The North Face Down Supply Chain

Each step of our down supply chain before our products reach our customers is audited and certified to the Responsible Down Standard. Additionally, each time ownership of the ducks and geese or down material changes hands, a transaction certificate, or document from our certification organization verifying conformity to the RDS is issued.

 

History of the Responsible Down Standard

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 traceability difficult. Due to this complexity, when we developed the RDS we 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 tapped the expertise of two key partners, Control Union Certifications and Textile Exchange, to develop a standard that addresses the down supply’s diverse challenges. After it was complete we gifted ownership of the RDS to Textile Exchange, thus opening it up for use by any organization in any industry.

See our previous post on The North Face Goose Down