“THE EVOLUTION OF OUR APPROACH TO SUSTAINABILITY LIES IN THE DESIGN OF OUR PRODUCTS. WHEN WE MAKE SUSTAINABILITY A FUNDAMENTAL COMPONENT OF EVERYTHING WE DESIGN, THEN WE CAN MOVE TOWARD MAKING INNOVATIVE PRODUCTS THAT HAVE A POSITIVE EFFECT ON THE ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY.”

– ADAM MOTT, THE NORTH FACE DIRECTOR OF SUSTAINABILITY

The North Face sustainability mission is to protect our outdoor playgrounds and communities through the design and development of environmentally and socially responsible products and business practices. Through life cycle assessments of products in our apparel, footwear and equipment categories, we have determined that the majority of our environmental impact comes from materials processing and product manufacturing. This is where The North Face directs their major focus.

RESPONSIBLE DOWN STANDARD

Officially launched in January 2014, the Responsible Down Standard or RDS is the most comprehensive, global, third-party certified animal welfare and traceability standard for down and feathers available for use by any company. The North Face initially committed to include 100 percent certified responsible down in all retail and wholesale down products by Spring 2017, and was able to achieve the increase a year sooner than anticipated.

“Down provides the most compressible warmth without the weight, offering superior insulation and comfort,” said Joe Vernachio, Global VP of Product, The North Face. “We’ve been working hard to integrate RDS-certified down across our entire down product line. It took a team effort, and we’re proud to say that now our customers can take comfort in knowing their down products were sourced from the highest quality, responsible down available.”

THE NORTH FACE COMMITMENT TO ANIMAL WELFARE

The North Face has remained committed to improving animal welfare and traceability in the down and feather supply chain since 2012, when the company partnered with the nonprofit Textile Exchange and Control Union Certifications, an accredited third-party certification body, to create the Responsible Down Standard (RDS). The primary mandate of the RDS is to prevent practices such as force-feeding and live-plucking, as well as provide strict requirements on issues such as food and water quality, housing, stock density, outdoor access, animal health, hygiene and pest and predator control, among others, all supported with traceability from hatchling to final product.

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Fraser McDougall skinning his way to the summit in Alaska. Photo: Mark Watson

The North Face gifted the RDS to Textile Exchange with the goal of scaling the standard to other brands and industries. Today, that vision is being realised as illustrated by the following milestones:

  • More than 40 brands from the outdoor, apparel and home industries have initiated certification of their supply chains to the RDS
  • An estimated 500 million birds are under RDS certification at the farm level
  • Over 1,200 sites in Europe, Asia and North America are certified by RDS to date, including 900 industrial farms.

“We’re thrilled to see complete integration of RDS-certified down into The North Face down products this fall,” said Anne Gillespie, Director of Industry Integrity for Textile Exchange. “Over the last year, many farm groups, processors, garment factories and trading units all became certified by RDS, providing a surge in the availability of responsible down to the growing number of brands who are demanding it. The North Face has been a real driver in creating the demand that has fuelled the momentum we are seeing.”

The RDS aims to recognise and encourage best practices in animal welfare and to enable traceability so that products can be labelled accurately and give consumers the ability to make informed choices.

ABOUT THE RESPONSIBLE DOWN STANDARD

The RDS is the most comprehensive, global, third-party certified animal welfare and traceability standard for down and feathers. Down, which comes from geese and ducks that are grown for the food industry, remains one of the highest quality, best performing materials for use in apparel, bedding and home goods. In late 2012, The North Face combined forces with Textile Exchange and Control Union Certifications to create and implement the RDS across primary sourcing regions in Europe, Asia and the U.S. This included working closely with leading suppliers Allied Feather & Down and Downlite to analyse and certify every step of the down supply chain. Upon completion of the standard, The North Face gifted it to Textile Exchange. TE owns a number of standards including the Organic Content Standard, the Recycled Claim Standard, the Global Recycled Standard and the Content Claim Standard. As a standards owner, Textile Exchange ensures access, quality and continuous improvement.

The North Face gifted ownership of the RDS to Textile Exchange, which allows any organisation to source down more responsibly with this tool. Adam Mott, Director of Sustainability explains that, “Our hope is that the collective use of the RDS will effectively promote positive animal welfare conditions and traceability in the down supply chain at a much larger scale than we could accomplish alone. We firmly believe that by driving positive change across the global supply chain, the RDS will benefit the industry at large.”

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BLUESIGN FABRICS AND RECYCLED MATERIALS

The North Face has partnered with the industry-leading experts at BLUESIGN TECHNOLOGIES to help The North Face mills reduce their impact by using water and energy more efficiently and by addressing harmful chemicals at the fabric level. The bluesign® system provides a sophisticated, independent approach to reducing supply chain impacts in five key areas: resource productivity; air emissions; worker health and safety; water emissions; and consumer safety.

The North Face has worked to influence supply chain partners to engage voluntarily with the program. After an intensive audit, bluesign® experts provide each participating fabric mill with a detailed, individualised assessment that gives them insight into how to optimise their energy and water use per kilogram of fabric.

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The annual percentage of The North Face bluesign® approved fabrics in the apparel line have increased from 21% in 2010, to 39% in 2015.

The cosy worm The North Face TKA 100 womens fleece pant are a great example of where The North Face use recycled materials in the manufacturing process.

Both the classic Apex Bionic Jacket and Paramount 2 Cargo Shorts use bluesign® approved fabrics and can also be found at your local Paddy Pallin store.

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Shredding fresh pow in Alaska. Photo: Mark Watson

 

About The Author

admin

Some 80 years ago, a young bushwalker's dissatisfaction with the limited and heavy bushwalking equipment available prompted him to design and make his own. Before long, word spread, and Paddy Pallin's lightweight, functional designs were soon in demand among fellow bushwalkers. From its early days the company has concentrated on supplying bushwalkers, travellers and adventurers with the highest quality and most advanced products and knowledge. Since 1930 the company has grown to become Australia's leading supplier of specialist outdoor and travel gear. The company, still owned by the Pallin family, now has thirteen stores throughout Australia as well as online, mail order and corporate sales divisions. We are using our vast wealth of knowledge, and experience, to build an online community where we can share our stories, reviews and tech tips to help you research and plan your next adventure.

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