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Responsible Down Standard Gets ‘Substantial’ Update

Textile Exchange has introduced sweeping changes to the way ducks and geese are handled under the Responsible Down Standard (RDS), noting on Tuesday that version 3.0 is the “first substantial revision” of the certification since its launch five years ago.

Euthanizing sick or injured birds, “in order to prevent suffering,” is now mandatory on farms, as is stunning before slaughter at slaughter sites. The new iteration will also demand observation of parent farms in industrial goose supply chains, as well as enforce stronger criteria related to handling, record keeping and the training of workers. Instead of the previous 50 percent, businesses must now meet all minor-level requirements, in areas such as housing conditions, animal handling and pest management, to achieve certification.

In addition, the document has also been restructured to provide “clearer guidance” for farms, suppliers, brands and certification bodies.

“These are significant changes that will create a much stronger standard and will require equally strong commitment and training from farms and suppliers,” La Rhea Pepper, managing director for Textile Exchange, said in a statement. “We know these changes will be worth it as they continue to safeguard the welfare of geese and ducks that provide down and feathers for the products we all love.”

Roughly 60 brands and retailers, including Adidas, Coyuchi and Patagonia have publicly committed to the standard, which was co-developed by The North Face in 2014 and covers the welfare of some 500 million birds on RDS-certified farms worldwide.

“As a proud partner of Textile Exchange and supporter of the RDS, we are excited that the RDS is continuing to evolve and is being strengthened further with its 3.0 release,” said Carol Shu, sustainability manager for The North Face. “One hundred percent of The North Face’s virgin down for all product lines is already certified and responsibly sourced, and with this new release we will now also be able to support additional important animal welfare advancements.”

The compliance date of the RDS 3.0 is July 1, 2020, after which sites will no longer be audited and certified to the RDS 2.0. RDS-approved certification bodies include Control Union, ICEA, IDFL and NSF International.

Despite growing animal-welfare concerns, down is one fiber that shows no sign of diminishing popularity. According to Transparency Market Research, down’s market share is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 7 percent to reach $8.2 million by 2025.