"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 lager 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."
-Adam Mott, Director of Sustainability
The North Face is committed to improving animal welfare and traceability in the goose down and feather supply chain. We use down in outerwear, sleeping bags, footwear, and accessories because of its superior insulating properties and warmth-to-weight ratio. We created 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 subject 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 The North Face products from farm to finished garment. We have been using certified down in our products since our Fall 2015 season and our goal is for 100 percent of the down we use to be certified to the RDS by our Fall 2017 season.
The RDS has gained great momentum and adoption across the supply chain. At the end of 2015, over 40 brands had initiated certification of their supply chains to the RDS and over 1,200 sites were certified in Europe, North America, and Asia, covering an estimated 500 million birds at the farm level. Additionally, around 240 processors, garment factories, and trading units were certified.
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 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 and Textile Exchange.
The North Face gifted ownership of the RDS to Textile Exchange, which allows any organization to source down more responsibly with 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.”
See our previous post on The North Face Goose Down