Down is one of the best performing materials for use in apparel

Down is one of the best performing materials for use in apparel

Leading international brands including H&M, Eddie Bauer, The North Face and Marmot have committed to using responsibly sourced and traceable down in their products.

Non-profit organisation Textile Exchange today (21 October) said the firms have all adopted its Responsible Down Standard (RDS) to drive efforts to ensure humane treatment of animals used for feather and down-based products.

The North Face has committed to 100% certified and responsibly sourced down across all product lines by 2017, while other brands say they will introduce certified down into their products from autumn 2015.

Although one of the highest-quality, best performing materials for use in apparel, down comes from geese and ducks that are grown primarily for the food industry and has come to the attention of animal welfare groups due to issues such as live-plucking and force-feeding.

Officially launched in January this year, the RDS was developed as part of a joint effort by The North Face, Textile Exchange and Control Union Certifications, an accredited third-party certification body. The process included working closely with leading suppliers Allied Feather & Down and Downlite to analyse and certify every step of the down supply chain.

Upon completion of the standard, The North Face gifted it to Textile Exchange to administer and evolve.

"I am proud of the effort that went into the development of the RDS," said Anne Gillespie, director of industry integrity at Textile Exchange. "We did extensive research, including visiting the sourcing regions in remote areas of Europe and Asia to fully understand the conditions we had to address, and worked with a diverse set of stakeholders that gave us a broad perspective of the issues.

"As more brands adopt the RDS, it will bring improved animal welfare conditions and better traceability in the down supply chain at a much larger scale than any one organisation or one supply chain could accomplish alone."

In addition to governing the standard, Textile Exchange is also evolving it through a stakeholder feedback process that includes input from brands and NGOs such as the European Outdoor Group and Outdoor Industry Association, and animal protection organisation Four Paws.

The primary mandate of the RDS is to prevent practices such as force-feeding and live-plucking as well as provide strict approvals on issues such as food and water quality, housing, stock density and outdoor access, animal health, hygiene and pest and predator control, among others.

"The brands adopting the RDS today are helping lead the charge to transform the down supply chain in an entirely new way," said Adam Mott, director of sustainability, The North Face.

"When we set out to develop the RDS, we knew that in order to truly succeed we had to create something that was global, open and adaptable. Today we are seeing the realisation of this vision - yet it is only the beginning. We welcome other brands to join in the commitment to source more responsible down."