Responsibly sourced down Safeguarding the welfare of geese and ducks

Down and feathers make up a small percentage of the fibre used in C&A collections. However, feather and down harvesting can result in unnecessary harm if not done with care and respect for geese and ducks. All of C&A's down and feathers are certified to the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) to ensure the humane treatment of geese and ducks.


What is the RDS?

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 trace fibre from farm to end product. The standard currently covers more than 500 million birds and is supported by more than 60 brands.

In 2019, the new version of the RDS was launched, with enhancements to the standard and certification process. Key changes include:

  • Euthanasia of sick or injured birds to prevent suffering is now mandatory on the farm.
  • Stunning before slaughter is now mandatory at the slaughter site.
  • Stronger criteria related to handling, record keeping, and training of workers are required.
  • Observation of parent farms in industrial goose supply chains, where the highest risk of live-plucking occurs, are now required.
  • All minor requirements are now mandatory (previously only 50% were required).
  • The document was restructured to provide clearer guidance for farms, suppliers, brands, and certification bodies.

How does it maintain traceability?

Every time RDS-certified down changes ownership, a transaction certificate 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. 


Our multi-dimensional auditing of welfare practices

No standard is a guarantee, so we ensure that feather and down harvesting is audited and certified by an independent third party at least annually.  We also conduct our own visits to these farms to observe practices and conditions on a periodic basis.

Recently, 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 over the past two years 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.

Where next?

After the release of RDS 3.0, we intend to continue sourcing all of our down and feathers in alignment with the new standard.