A new standard to help companies ensure that the down in their products comes from ethically treated geese is to be overseen by non-profit organisation Textile Exchange in a bid to widen its uptake.

The Responsible Down Standard (RDS) was developed by The North Face in partnership with global certification body Control Union and Textile Exchange.

It addresses the critical issues of live-plucking and force-feeding of geese, in addition to other strict animal welfare requirements. The chain of custody of the certified down is backed up by TE's Content Claim Standard.

"Our hope is that the collective use of the standard will effectively promote positive animal welfare conditions and traceability in the down supply chain at a much larger scale than we could accomplish by ourselves," explains Adam Mott, senior manager of corporate sustainability at The North Face.

The range in down supply chain structures made it a challenge to create an effective standard, but the RDS balances rigour with flexibility, and allows for wide-scale adoption.

Down for the outdoor industry is primarily sourced in Eastern Europe and China and can come from large scale industrialised farms or from informal collection systems that draw from small-scale farms, including families raising just a few geese for their own use.

The standard development included input from supply chain members, farmers, animal welfare organizations, and industry experts.

TE will be initiating a second input period as part of the review process, in order to collect real-use feedback from the field, as well as from additional industry stakeholders. This should be completed in the next 6-12 months.

The standard is also likely to evolve based on future developments and as adoption grows.

The Responsible Down Standard can be used by any company, with immediate effect.

Outdoor clothing company Patagonia has also developed a Traceable Down Standard, details of which were released in November 2013. A full line of products has already been converted to traceable down, with plans to switch its entire supply chain to 100% traceable down from the autumn.

Patagonia's standard offers a means to verify that down is sourced from animals that have not been harmed - and Textile Exchange's Content Claim Standard is also being used to ensure the chain of custody with this standard.