10 years of DOWN CODEX®: Risk Management in the Supply Chain. Pt1.
DOWN CODEX® is celebrating its tenth anniversary. It does so in a typically understated way, but it provides us with an opportunity to look back and take stock, not only of what we have learned but also of how the wider industry has changed. It is a chance to understand how much DOWN CODEX® mattered then and now, assess the influence it has had, and chart the progress we have made.
For many years we concentrated our efforts into sourcing high quality, high performance down for our products, and that was as far as it went. But then as we moved into the new millennium everything changed; broader animal welfare issues began to bubble to the surface and by 2009, numerous animal welfare charities were citing specific evidence of mistreatment against ducks and geese. Practices such as ‘live plucking’, already illegal in many countries, were said to still be commonly practiced whilst it was also shown that some down was coming from supply chains involved in the production of Foie Gras, a process requiring geese to be force fed.
Because of the nature of our supply chain at that time we were reasonably confident that such practices were unlikely to be associated with our down but we recognised that we needed to be able to provide assurances to our customers. We also recognised that there were undoubtedly other issues, perhaps equally as important, which needed to be addressed.
But we were starting from scratch: there were no standards, no auditing schemes, little industry knowledge and few if any case-studies. The only thing which seemed to be in abundance at that time was scepticism.
Our starting point was to create a list of assumptions about our supply chain and then to establish whether those assumptions were correct. We took our lead on welfare from the UK’s leading animal welfare charity - the RSPCA - and to understand more about the down supply chain itself we turned to the International Down and Feather Laboratory (IDFL) for help.
With their help and the openness of one of our sleeping bag factories we conducted our first site visit in August 2010, in Northern China. Our ‘Happy Geese Project’, a rather strange title given that the one thing we definitely knew was that the bulk of the down used by us at that time came from ducks, was in motion.
From that it became The Down Project and in January 2011, DOWN CODEX® was formally launched at the ISPO European Outdoor Trade Show. It was an initiative that would enlighten not just ourselves but a whole industry as to how the down supply chain really worked, helped show how risk could be managed and helped lead the way in the development of down standards and traceability certifications.