February 20, 2012
As you may have seen, a news story was recently published in the UK regarding The North Face and the goose down used in some of our products. The story raised questions about The North Face using down from geese that have been force-fed for the production foie gras. The North Face does not condone the practice of force-feeding geese. This is an issue that is important to us. While there is not a short-term solution, here is where we are to date.
The drivers of the goose farming industry: Down used in manufacturing is derived from geese that are primarily raised for their meat and liver, which industry experts estimate comprise 85 – 90% of the economic value of a goose. By comparison, down is estimated to comprise roughly 5% of the economic value. Put another way, the value of down itself is not an economic driver in goose farming. If the apparel and bedding manufacturing industries were to cease using down as a material, goose farming would continue unabated due to the demand of the food industry. The majority of outdoor industry products such as jackets and sleeping bags use down from grey geese while the bedding industry uses down from white geese. Grey geese are raised primarily by farmers for their meat and liver, which are used by the food industry to make products such as foie gras.
Where we source our down: The North Face has primarily sourced its down for over 20 years from Allied Feather & Down, the leading down supplier to the outdoor industry as a whole. All of Allied Feather’s down is a byproduct of the food industry, that is to say it is derived from geese that are raised for their meat and liver. On an industry-wide basis there is a general lack of traceability of materials in the down supply chain and, as a result, there was a point in time when we stated that the down we use in our products was not sourced from force fed geese. We have since learned that this is not the case and we apologize for and regret not having greater insight into the origins of our down and any inaccurate statements we made about it. The North Face is working with its suppliers and partners to find a long-term solution to avoid sourcing down that is a byproduct of force-feeding.
What we are doing: We are members of the Outdoor Industry Association and Textile Exchange Materials Traceability Working Group. The members of the working group believe it is important to be able to trace the raw materials in their products and that the outdoor industry and its suppliers must work together to ensure transparency and traceability in complex supply chains, including those involving goose down. A Down Task Force has been organized under the working group in order to establish a traceability system specific to down supply chains and address key down industry supply chain issues. The first event held by the task force was the Down Panel Workshop held at the 2012 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market conference in Salt Lake City in January. The focus was to educate the audience on down supply chains and related issues facing the industry and included representatives from across the industry including outdoor brands, retailers, materials experts and suppliers. More info can be found at www.outdoorindustry.org/or. Subsequent meetings of the Down Task Force will:
• Define and address issues pertaining to down supply chains
• Perform a gap analysis to identify existing standards and tools in the marketplace
• Develop a functional traceability protocol that builds upon the CCS and works for down supply chains worldwide
• Establish procedures to store and share information with stakeholders pertaining to down supply chains
Where we go from here: We believe that we have an obligation to ourselves and our customers to better understand the source of materials in our supply chain and to advocate for the humane and ethical treatment of animals that are a part of it and are committed to doing so. In addition, we will seek to find a long-term solution that avoids sourcing down that is a byproduct of force-feeding. While we are not an economic driver of the goose farming industry, we will make our stance on its practices known.
The North Face
VP - Operations