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How The North Face Is Changing the Down Industry

Since the release of the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) in January, we have been working diligently to get it rolled out to the industry and implemented across our own supply chain. Doing this has been a complex and challenging project for The North Face and our partners, but we believe the RDS will make some critical changes to the down supply chain to improve traceability and ethical treatment of animals.

The global down supply chain is highly complex with a number of animal welfare issues facing the industry. The RDS is designed to evaluate and trace the original source of down used in our products, thereby creating a chain of custody from gosling to end product. Our ultimate goal is to increase transparency in the supply chain around all issues relating to animal welfare. This includes prohibiting animal mistreatment such as force-feeding and live-plucking as well as providing guidelines on issues such as food/water quality, housing, stock density/outdoor access, animal health, hygiene, and pest/predator control, among others.

The RDS strives to drive positive change across the global down supply chain and we are thrilled to share three big updates with you from our journey so far.

Certified Down Rollout Plan

First, our Fall 2015 product line will incorporate RDS certified down into 30 percent of all of our global products. In addition, all down used in the Summit Series, our pinnacle collection of expedition-ready apparel and gear, will use 100 percent certified down in Fall 2015.

In 2016 our goal is to increase our total percentage of certified down to 60 percent and by 2017 to have down in all products certified by the RDS.

Training & Audits

It’s been a busy year so far. In March, we traveled to Europe and Asia with our two primary down suppliers, Allied Feather and Down and Downlite, to train farmers, collectors, suppliers and processors on the RDS with Control Union, an accredited third-party certification body. These trainings were vital to not only get the European and Asian organizations on board to participate in the RDS, but to begin to implement the changes we want to see.

In May, Control Union began conducting in-person audits of the supply chain that is producing the down that will go into 2015 products. This is one of the most time-intensive parts of the certification process requiring visits to hundreds of sites. So we’ve got our work cut out for us.

We are pleased to share that all audits on down sources, slaughterhouses, and down processing facilities will be completed by the end of August 2014. Though Control Union has already begun to issue certifications, we will have many more to process as the rest of these audits are completed. Auditors are also currently in the process of reviewing the US down processing facilities, which are often the final step in the supply chain before the down is sent to our garment manufacturing sites. Finally, this fall, we will begin the certification process for all of our garment manufactures that produce down-insulated products.

The RDS 2.0

As we mentioned in January, The North Face gifted the RDS to Textile Exchange with hopes of engaging more brands and down suppliers to begin to implement the RDS in their own supply chains. Textile Exchange is now leading a collaborative stakeholder engagement process with the goal of updating the Standard with an even deeper level of feedback from the industry. 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 various sectors including animal welfare organizations. The North Face is participating as a member of the Technical Working Group and Steering Committee for the next round of edits.

The RDS is currently the broadest and most comprehensive approach to animal welfare available in the down supply chain. Through its collective use, we believe 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.

We will be sure to provide you with further updates on our down journey on this blog. Let us know what you think about our work so far.

This post first appeared on The North Face's Never Stop Exploring blog on August 6, 2014.


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