Sustainability / November 12, 2013

The Development of our Responsible Down Standard

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It has been a few months since we last reported our progress on our journey to develop a more ethical, transparent, and traceable down supply chain. Since then, we have done a lot of work that allows us to announce we have created a Responsible Down Standard that addresses animal welfare issues and traceability in the down supply chain.

In partnership with Control Union Certifications, an accredited 3rd party certification body with expertise in auditing animal welfare and farming practices and Textile Exchange, a global nonprofit dedicated to sustainability with expertise in textile standard development and management; we have completed a full evaluation of the animal welfare landscape as it relates to the global down supply chain. We’ve been very busy mapping out how to create a verified third-party auditing and certification process through the development of an animal welfare and traceability standard.

Given the amount of down products we make, we have a global supply chain with multiple channels. During the 2013 primary down harvesting seasons our teams inspected hatcheries, farms, slaughterhouses, collectors, pre-processors, processing facilities and garment manufacturers across our sourcing regions in Eastern Europe and Asia to evaluate the viability of the implementation of an animal welfare and traceability standard. We also interviewed experts and reviewed documentation practices at each of these locations to better understand their processes. We are pleased to report that, although challenging, it is possible for The North Face to create and implement an animal welfare and traceability standard that will drive change across the outdoor industry down supply chain. Our deep research helped us create a standard that can be applied across the global supply chain, complete with documentation and official third party audit and certification

The first draft of our Responsible Down Standard is complete and we are conducting pre-pilot, test audits with a subset of our supply chain to make sure the audit process is functional from end to end. After this pre-pilot, the standard will be shared with others including animal welfare groups, industry organizations, suppliers, retailers, manufacturers and local market experts for review and input. We strongly believe in taking the time to consult a wide range of stakeholders to ensure we create a comprehensive standard that can be used across the industry. We have also committed to addressing all feedback as we finalize the Responsible Down Standard.

In 2014, the Responsible Down Standard will be completed and The North Face will enlist Control Union to conduct a full-scale application of the standard across our global supply chain. This will include onsite audits at every level of the supply chain from hatchery through to garment manufacturing and will result in down that is formally certified and traceable against the requirements of the Responsible Down Standard. By driving positive change across the global supply chain, this standard will also benefit the industry at large.

We have confidence that the work we have done to date and our new certification requirements will have a long standing influence on the down industry, and we plan to make it public for everyone’s benefit. We remain committed to ensuring the ethical treatment of geese in our down supply chain, validating this commitment with a corresponding traceability program, achieving our 100% certified goal and publically reporting our results.

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