Textile Exchange has announced that a number of international outdoor and fashion brands and retailers including Eddie Bauer, Marmot, Mammut, Helly Hansen, H&M and others have adopted its Responsible Down Standard (RDS). Textile Exchange is a U.S.-based non-profit organization operating internationally for sustainability in the apparel and textile industry. The RDS, officially launched in January 2014, is a comprehensive, global, third-party certified animal welfare and traceability standard for down and feathers, available for use by any company.

Ducks and geese are often plucked alive. The RDS certification, which can be applied to any waterfowl-based supply chain, helps ensure humane treatment of animals from gosling to end product. In addition to preventing brutal practices in the killing of the animals, the certification requires that birds have clean water and sufficient food and natural light in their quarters. It also calls for a well-documented chain of ownership to help detect the cases in which birds are raised in non-compliant conditions.

Over the past few years, some outdoor brands have developed their own sourcing standards for down and feathers. Patagonia introduced its first 100 percent Traceable Down products in 2013. The brand has also been working closely with Four Paws, an international animal welfare group, which promotes among others a campaign against the mistreatment of down-bearing birds. In 2012, The North Face combined forces with Textile Exchange and Control Union Certifications to design and apply the RDS across Europe and Asia, and in U.S. processing sites. Upon completion of the standard, The North Face then handed over the work to Textile Exchange to administer and to evolve the standard, thereby enabling other firms to implement the standard as well. The North Face aims to have 30 percent of the down it sources RDS certified by 2015, and 100 percent certified across all its product lines by 2017.

While governing the Responsible Down Standard, Textile Exchange also plans to work through stakeholder feedback processes, with input from brands, NGOs such as the European Outdoor Group and the Outdoor Industry Association, and the animal activists of Four Paws.