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 Certificate (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 meet the standard’s requirements.
Auditing to ensure best practice
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.
In 2017 we conducted visits to RDS-certified supply chains in order to better understand how the standard was implemented and where improvements could be made. We were pleased to confirm that RDS is effective in preventing many harmful practices including force feeding and live plucking – practices we have banned for a number of years.
However, we also found that the standard could be improved to ensure requirements are detailed enough in countries where animal welfare legislation is less strong. We have shared the findings of our investigation with Textile Exchange, and are working with them to drive improvements to the standard. We are also consolidating our down supply chain to work with fewer suppliers. C&A remains committed to the RDS as the best way to source our down responsibly.
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 are committed to help overcome the challenge.
Supporting the RDS Standard
In 2018, we will work with the International Working Group of the Responsible Down Standard on the next revision of the standard, strengthening its requirements and encouraging improvements in industry practices.
Consolidating our down supply chain
C&A is consolidating its down supply chain, aiming to work with fewer suppliers. This will allow us greater control and increase our ability to work in partnership with our down supply chain to improve practices.