In the last guide to outdoor gear in 2010, we commented that workers’ rights policies in the outdoor market were lagging behind other clothing sectors, largely due to lack of scrutiny. There has been some improvement in supply chain policies this time, partly helped by Jack Wolfskin, Mountain Equipment and Sprayway signing up to the Fair Wear Foundation initiative. But only Jack Wolfskin, Paramo and Patagonia get our best rating for supply chain management. Most of the companies still score worst for supply chain management and workers’ rights.
However, in 2014, the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) and the European Outdoor Group (EOG) industry body, did produce a report called Living Wage Engineering which recognised the potential for outdoor gear companies to become leaders and pioneers on living wages.
The Cruelty Behind Down-Filled Jackets
Down is a prized commodity for the outdoor equipment industry. Every year, hundreds of tonnes of it are processed, from millions of ducks and geese.
But you may be shocked to hear that these geese and ducks can have their feathers plucked while alive, repeatedly for years, and that the more you ‘live-pluck’ a bird, the more sought-after is their down for its higher ‘fill-power’. Down and feathers may also come from birds that have been cruelly force-fed for the controversial paté, foie gras.
Many outdoor gear manufacturers state that the feathers they use come only from birds that were reared and killed for meat, and that were only plucked after slaughter. However, there is often very little traceability within the supply lines of these companies.
Outdoor companies now leading the way
Although 90% of down used globally is in the bedding industry, momentum for change eventually came from outdoor companies, with Patagonia, The North Face and Mountain Equipment each developing their own standards – the Traceable Down Standard (TDS), the Responsible Down Standard (RDS), and the Down Codex.