Down insulation, for all of its warmth, can be a cold and dirty business. Ducks and geese are often plucked alive, and many of the fine feathers in comforters and puffy coats come from birds that were force-fed to make foie gras. The North Face, recognizing a problem in its pitch, is backing a certification standard to create a down supply chain that customers can feel warm and fuzzy about.
“We’re trying to change the down industry on a global level,” says Adam Mott, director of sustainability at North Face, a unit of apparel conglomerate VF Corp. “And we’re trying to create a standard that’s inclusive enough that anyone can use it.”
In addition to nixing the medieval practices described above, the certification requires that birds have clean water and plenty of food and natural light in their quarters. It also calls for a carefully documented chain of ownership, so a down supplier won’t qualify if it buys birds raised in noncompliant conditions.