What Is the Responsible Down Standard and Why Should I Care?

By: Kealia Reynolds Environmental responsibility
Photo by Luiz Felipe

You know those super soft pillows that sink the second your head touches the surface? There’s a pretty good chance that those pillows are filled with down. Often found in puffy jackets, sleeping bags, comforters, and pillows, down is highly prized for its insulation properties, durability, comfort, and sustainability. Of all the insulation materials used today, down provides the greatest warmth for the least weight.

So what exactly is down?

 Down is more than just the feathers that are plucked from ducks and geese—it’s the plumage next to the fowls’ skin, found underneath the feathers. Though duck down is more common and affordable than goose down, the latter has a better weight-to-warmth ratio and more fluffiness. Down is collected from only ducks and geese that are being raised for their meat—and this is where issues arise.

Waterfowl raised for meat are often subjected to practices like live-plucking and force feeding. Live plucking involves the removal of feathers while the birds are still alive, and is an incredibly stressful and painful process for the animals. Force feeding (it’s exactly what it sounds like) is a common practice that’s performed to fatten the livers of ducks and geese, a process known as foie gras.

Because of the global awareness of these cruel and inhumane practices, the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) was created. In 2014, The North Face launched the Responsible Down Standard in partnership with Textile Exchange, a global nonprofit dedicated to sustainability in the textile and apparel industry, and Control Union Certifications, an accredited third-party certification body with expertise in agriculture and farm systems.

The Responsible Down Standard

The Responsible Down Standard is an independent, voluntary global standard—this means that companies can choose to certify that their products meet the RDS, even if there’s no legislation that requires them to do so. Not only does this standard safeguard the welfare of geese and ducks in the process of gathering down and feathers, but it also provides traceability in supply chains and validates where the down came from.

Here are six key parts of the Responsible Down Standard.

  1. From hatching to slaughter, there is holistic respect for the birds’ animal welfare—proper feeding and handling, proper health treatment, and a safe environment should all be provided.
  2. Each stage in the down supply chain is audited by a third-party certification body—no matter where an organization lies in the supply chain, it must provide proper documentation that the down has been acquired from an RDS-certified supplier.
  3. RDS down and feathers are properly identified, so down and feathers that aren’t RDS-certified aren’t misidentified.
  4. Only products with 100% certified down and feathers carry the RDS logo.
  5. Removal of down or feathers from live birds is prohibited.
  6. Force-feeding birds is prohibited.

Home brands that meet the RDS

1. Daniadown Home

Daniadown Home specializes in duvets, duvet covers, sheets, pillows, and other home items. Some of their select duvets and pillows are RDS-certified.

2. Feathered Friends

Founded in 1972 by a husband-and-wife team, Feathered Friends is a company dedicated to producing down gear, like clothing garments and bedding, for the outdoors. Handmade construction techniques and modern fabric technology advancements are used to create each product. Since 2015, Feathered Friends has committed to using RDS-certified down, ensuring customers that they’re receiving the highest quality down available and that the down in their products was ethically sourced from humanely treated geese.

3. Scandia Home

This luxury company features an extensive collection of premium products for the bed, bath, and home. The Scandia Home dedication to quality is unmatched—they have a high standard for down cleanliness (they implement a 12-stage cleaning process for their down), they work with the best mills that weave their fabrics to exact specifications, and they have an ongoing commitment to humane sourcing of natural fills. Beginning in 2016, Scandia Home announced its move to the Responsible Down Standard and has filled their products with only RDS-certified down ever since.

4. L.L. Bean

Though known more as an iconic outdoor store, L.L. Bean also makes bedding, rugs, furniture, and kitchenware. As part of their corporate responsibility, L.L. Bean uses down that meets the Responsible Down Standard in a variety of their products, from outerwear to sleeping bags and comforters.


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