The North Face has committed to the goal of using 100 percent certified and responsibly sourced down across all product lines by Fall 2017. Leading up to this, The North Face will have 30 percent certified down by Fall 2015 and a goal of 60 percent certified down by Fall 2016. In addition, all down used in the Summit Series, The North Face brand’s pinnacle collection of expedition-ready apparel and gear, and all European styles, will use 100 percent certified down in Fall 2015.
This down will be certified using the Responsible Down Standard (RDS), a third-party auditing and certification standard that can be applied to any water fowl-based supply chain and is open for use by any public entity. The North Face led the design and launch of the RDS earlier this year and gifted it to Textile Exchange, a global nonprofit dedicated to sustainability in the apparel and textile industry, to administer and evolve the standard as needed.
The RDS is designed to evaluate and trace the original source of down used in any down-based product, thereby creating a chain of custody from gosling to end product. The North Face has been working with down suppliers and Control Union Certifications, an accredited third-party certification body, to implement the RDS across primary sourcing regions in Europe and Asia and processing sites in the U.S.
“Influencing the down supply chain to change its practices to ensure the ethical treatment of animals and traceability is a significant challenge. We are working with suppliers many levels past our direct down suppliers, all the way back to the farms of the food industry to enable more responsibly sourced down,” said Adam Mott, director of sustainability for The North Face. “Our ultimate goal is to change the industry as a whole, not just our own supply chain. To do that, we need a collective effort from our competitors in the apparel industry as well as other sectors that use a significant volume of down and feathers like the bedding and furniture industries. We want the practices promoted by the RDS to become the new norm.”
The RDS is currently the broadest and most comprehensive approach to animal welfare available in the down supply chain, according to The North Face. Through its collective use, The North Face believes the industry will see improved animal welfare conditions and better traceability in the down supply chain at a much larger scale than The North Face could accomplish alone.
The global down supply chain is complex as the down comes from the food industry and then goes through multiple cleaning and sorting processes to get to the final high-quality material used in The North Face products. There is an inevitable risk of animal welfare issues with the raising of farm animals for food. The North Face brand’s goal with the standard is to prevent practices such as force-feeding and live-plucking as well as provide guidelines on issues such as food/water quality, housing, stock density/outdoor access, animal health, hygiene and pest/predator control, among others.
Textile Exchange has begun the process of actively updating the RDS based on additional industry feedback and stakeholder engagement in 2014. The goal of this feedback is to make sure the RDS stays current to the conditions and needs of the down industry and that there is a balance of interest across the supply chain and sectors.