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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Responsible Down Standard

The North Face is committed to improving animal welfare and traceability in the goose down and feather supply chain.  They created the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) to help ensure that the down that they utilize in their products 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 their 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, they became aware of the potential mistreatment of animals in the food supply chain from which they sourced their down.

They had been relying on self-declarations from their 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, they were very deliberate in their 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 their 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

The company 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.”

The RDS v2 Stakeholder Review period is officially open.   Textile Exchang is asking any interested parties to take time to review the revised draft of the standard, in order to provide feedback.  The revised standard is a result of the work of the International Working Group.  The review included stakeholders from throughout the supply chain, animal welfare groups including Humane Society International, PETA and 4-Paws,and brands and retailers.  A webinar introduced the standard to stakeholders. The form includes all the written comments collected through the feedback form, written responses to each one, with key themes listed first.  Further changes to the standard were made as a result of the review, as well as phone conversations with stakeholders.

The Textile Exchange is very grateful for their contribution of time and expertise into making this the strongest possible standard for the down industry.  To participate in the Stakeholder Review, please follow the guidelines listed on their website.  If you have any questions, please send them to Integrity@TextileExchange.org.

You can learn more about the Responsible Down Standard at the Textile Exchange website.

On Apparel Search, we have a directory of feather & down suppliers.  We are not currently sure which of them would be certified or not.  If you plan to work with any of those suppliers, we suggest that you ask them to confirm if they have been certified or not.

Below is a bit more on the subject of down clothing:

Learn about TurboDown on the Fashion Blog.  You can also use the search to find additional posts regarding down or any other subject. 

Learn about selecting insulated vests & jackets in the research section of our textile education guide.

You may also have interest in Fjällräven Down and reading the down definition.

Thank you for taking the time to read our apparel & textile industry blog post. We hope that you have found this news to be informative. If you have comments or questions, please add your thoughts in the discussion area below.

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