In 2013, after years of efforts to develop the highest standard for animal welfare in the industry, outdoor goods retailer and manufacturer Patagonia published its 100% Traceable Down Standard to provide a roadmap for other brands to meet the same high bar and prevent needless animal suffering. Patagonia says it is the only company to date to have fully implemented this rigorous standard, which it achieved in 2014.
Since developing the standard, Patagonia approached NSF International, a globally recognized standards and certification organization, to facilitate a consensus-based process to refining its internal standard into a multi-tiered global down standard. NSF says the resulting new Global Traceable Down Standard represents the strongest public animal welfare standard available to companies that use duck or goose down in their products. NSF’s Sustainability division will provide independent, third-party auditing and certification services for product manufacturers to this standard following its publication this month.
Patagonia’s standard — through which all of the down in its products can be traced back to birds that were never force–fed or live–plucked, and which prohibits the use of blended down — now represents the independent Global Traceable Down Standard’s highest tier. Patagonia says the goal is for companies of all kinds to have the option of joining it at the highest level of certification, or finding an achievable but rigorous entry point to gain a foothold as they work toward it.
"One of the most encouraging things about Patagonia's work since 2007 to develop and implement the Traceable Down Standard has been the response from companies of all kinds setting out to determine what path they will take to build a cruelty-free down supply chain,” said Patagonia COO Doug Freeman. “At this moment, we've reached a critical tipping point for our industry — these decisions are literally happening now.
"Now that Patagonia has achieved the tough standard of 100 percent traceable down and started raising awareness among consumers about the realities of conventionally sourced down, we want to encourage all other companies to settle for nothing less in their own supply chains. We look forward to working collaboratively to make the industry standard the absolute strongest standard.”
A byproduct of the meat industry, down is sourced through multiple channels and suppliers. Under the Global Traceable Down Standard, onsite audits verify that treatment of waterfowl meets the rigorous requirements of the standard, including no force-feeding or live plucking, from parent farm to slaughterhouse. It was particularly important to go beyond existing other programs and extend protection to parent farms where animals typically live for four years or more and would be at greatest risk for live plucking.
Additionally, traceability is confirmed through on-site audits at all locations from parent farm to final manufacture to ensure the compliant down and feather material is fully documented as the only material used in finished, certified goods. All organizations handling the down are audited and verified to have good management systems in place to keep the certified down segregated from conventionally sourced down.
The Global Traceable Down Standard was developed in partnership with stakeholders from industry including down processors, manufacturers, retailers, trade associations, NGOs, and animal welfare groups such as Four Paws International — which first forced Patagonia to address cruelty in its down supply chain by campaigning against the company in 2012. These key groups developed, defined and agreed to criteria for the final standard.
“The Global Traceable Down Standard moves beyond current industry programs to include the full lifecycle of waterfowl and more fully protect all birds in the supply chain,” said Tom Bruursema, Sustainability General Manager of NSF International. “The importance of full traceability and animal welfare are well-defined in the standard and can help drive greater supply chain transparency for the industry.”
In January 2014, fellow outdoor gear company The North Face announced the completion of its own Responsible Down Standard (RDS), a tool that the company intended to provide a global standard through which any organization can evaluate, trace and certify its full down supply chain. It’s unclear how the fine print of the two standards differs, but having these two major players dedicated to ensuring the welfare of their geese can only be a good thing. The North Face says RDS-certified down will be available in its products this fall.