The North Face is going down, and it wants to take the rest of the industry with it. In an announcement at Outdoor Retailer show on Wednesday, the outdoor-apparel retailer unveiled a new global animal-welfare and traceability standard, through which it will evaluate and certify its down supply chain. Produced in partnership with third-party accreditor Control Union Certifications, along with the nonprofit Textile Exchange, the Responsible Down Standard uses an established chain-of-custody process to help the The North Face ensure that its down doesn’t come from birds that have been subjected to “unnecessary harm,” including force-feeding and live-plucking.
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WHAT’S GOOD FOR THE GOOSE
“The down supply chain is extremely complex and has historically been challenged with limited transparency and traceability,” Adam Mott, senior manager of sustainability at The North Face, says in a statement. “The Responsible Down Standard we created in partnership with Control Union and Textile Exchange aims to address concerns of animal welfare and create a certification process that can be applied to any organization’s global down supply chain.”
The North Face intends to”gift” the ownership of the RDS to Textile Exchange, which will have full rights to distribute and update it.
The North Face also revealed its plan to “gift” the ownership of the RDS to Textile Exchange, which will have full rights to distribute and update the RDS as it sees fit. We are giving the Responsible Down Standard to the public in order to provide a holistic tool for any organization seeking to source down more responsibly,” Mott says. “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.”
Textile Exchange has outlined a rapid-review process, where it will gather field data and feedback from industry partners with an eye toward releasing the next iteration of the RDS in six to 12 months.
“We applaud The North Face for its efforts and leadership in developing a comprehensive standard that can be applied to the global down supply chain,” says Anne Gillespie, director of industry integrity at Textile Exchange. “We look forward to building on the foundation it has created in the coming months to continue to drive sustainable change in the outdoor and textiles industry.”
NOT DOWN WITH DOWN
Not everyone is a fan of animal-based down, however. Both actress Alicia Silverstone and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have publicly condemned all down products for their implicit and explicit cruelty.
Both actress Alicia Silverstone and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have publicly condemned all down products for their implicit and explicit cruelty.
“Many birds used for down have their feathers yanked out of their skin, sometimes several times a year, while they are still alive,” Silverstone said in 2012. “The terrified birds are pinned down while hurried workers rip fistfuls of feathers from their sensitive bodies, often plucking them so violently that they actually tear open the birds’ skin.”
Buying down, she adds can also support foie gras, since foie gras producers often boost their bottom line by selling the feathers of their force-fed ducks and geese.
“No matter where it comes from, down is a product of cruelty to birds,” Silverstone said. “We like to imagine that birds are walking around and their feathers are falling off and we just collect them in little baskets and be so lovely. That ain’t happening.”