The Responsible Down Standard (RDS) is an independent voluntary global standard owned by Textile Exchange and certified by Control Union. It is designed to be a global benchmark for best practice, preventing practices such as force-feeding and live-plucking and creating strict requirements on issues like food and water quality, outdoor access, animal health and hygiene. It also allows us to track the fibre from farm to end product: every time an RDS down changes ownership, a Transaction Certficate (TC) is issued, identifying the material from the source to the final product. The process is audited at every stage of the supply chain. We undertake this process so our customers can feel confident that the material in their clothing was made to the highest standards.
We are not alone in making this commitment – it is the most practical for creating industry change. Over 3,000 farms and 30 brands are part of the scheme, making the lives of 400 million birds better.
This year, we moved to 100% RDS-certified down and feathers in all our clothing. To do this, we collaborated with industry stakeholders who created the RDS standard, and with our suppliers, to both embed and audit these practices. We are proud of the speed with which we have achieved our goal, up from 40% RDS-certified down the year before in 2015. We announced our move to 100% RDS-certified down in June 2016, after successfully implementing the standard across Europe.
No standard is a guarantee, but it is the best possible tool to ensure industry expectations are being met. Control Union conducts yearly audits of our suppliers to check they are following the RDS standard. During 2017, we are conducting due diligence to ensure that the standards are applied consistently in our supply chain.
Traceability to hatchling
Today, the RDS applies to the welfare of birds that are the direct source of certified down and feathers. Certifying parent farms is optional for now, because making it compulsory could affect the standard’s ability to scale. The difficulty in certifying for chain of custody between parent farms, hatcheries, and raising farms would make it either impossible or very costly to apply to supply chains in all key down producing regions. But we know this needs to change, and we are committed to help overcome the challenge.
Due diligence across our supply chain
To strengthen our supply network and improve our understanding of RDS implementation on the ground, our down supply chains in China are subjected to careful scrutiny. We will conduct additional supply chain investigation with Control Union. The aim is to find out how much difference the standard makes, how it could be improved, and if and how traceability to parent farms could be secured.
Creating a consistent global standard
C&A is a member of the RDS International Working Group, which designed the latest version of the RDS and helps define how to further develop the standard. The Textile Exchange and NSF International are now working together to merge the RDS and Traceable Down Standard to create one global down standard combining the best of each. We are excited to be part of this process and share our learnings and perspectives to continually improve our approach over time.