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 requirements.
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 have been working with them in 2018 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 challenging and 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.
Maintaining RDS and implementing the new version of the standard when released
In 2018, we worked 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. Looking ahead, we are committed to using the standard as the best way to ensure responsible down practices.