After nearly two years in development, we are excited to announce our global Responsible Down Standard (RDS) is complete. As we discussed in our last down update in November, we have been finalizing the RDS to incorporate findings from our pre-pilot audit. We learned a lot about the practicality of a third-party certification process during our pre-pilot and were able to present an updated version to a pre-selected group of organizations including animal welfare groups, industry organizations, suppliers, retailers, manufacturers and local market experts in late December. We received their feedback in early January and after addressing key areas of improvement we are prepared to begin auditing our full down supply chain.
We’re grateful to our partners in this process which includes Control Union Certification, an accredited third-party certification body, and Textile Exchange, a global nonprofit dedicated to sustainability in the apparel and textile industry. Working closely with both organizations, we developed standards that outline a process to effectively certify the source of down, ensuring it does not come from animals that have been subject to any unnecessary harm, such as force-feeding or live-plucking, and provides a traceability system to validate the original source of down used in The North Face products, essentially following the product from ‘gosling to jacket’.
The down supply chain is a complicated one and the process of creating the RDS required significant time. We now have a final product that incorporates broad stakeholder feedback and addresses the complexities of down supply chains in regions around the world. The main structure of the RDS is fitted into a five-module system that applies to different down sourcing sites based on the activities being performed there. Each section of the RDS addresses the specifics of that site, with requirements for animal welfare and traceability. The five modules are as follows:
- Small Farmer Group
- Textile Exchange Content Claim Standard
Full details on each module and the requirement types needed for our certification can be found in the RDS available here:
In 2014 we will continue to work with Control Union to begin an initial application of the RDS 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 a percentage of down that is formally certified and traceable against the requirements of the RDS. This down will be available in our products starting Fall 2015.
We also plan to gift the ownership of the RDS to Textile Exchange, which will gain full rights to distribute and update the RDS as it sees fit. Once Textile Exchange takes ownership of the standard, it will be conducting a rapid-review process, where it will gather field data from users as well as feedback from additional industry partners with the goal to release the next version of the RDS within six to 12 months. We, along with Textile Exchange, invite other companies to take part in using the RDS and contributing feedback.
The RDS will provide a holistic tool for any organization seeking to source down more responsibly. 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. We firmly believe that by driving positive change across the global supply chain, the RDS will benefit the industry at large.
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