What is RDS?

By Evelyn Zhao
May. 28, 2022

When it comes to down and feather, people often talk about RDS, so what is RDS? Why RDS is important for suppliers and customers?

For customers, some people may hear about RDS, but they rarely know what exactly it is. The full name is responsible down standard and it aims for protecting the wealfare of animals. All of us hope that the products we buy are certificated by the RDS. It is especially for down and feathers products, such as down pillows, down duvets, down cushions, down comforters, and so on. It is necessary for us to know more information about it. 

For suppliers, it is far more important as they have to ensure the highest possibility that down and feathers are not from animals in their supply chain that have been subjected to any unnecessary harm. This is also the hope of TEXTILE EXCHANGE that te standard can be effectively used to reward and influence the down and feather industry around the world to incentivize practices that respect the humane treatment of ducks and geese. 

Therefore, there are six points we have to remember that are issued by TEXTILE EXCHANGE. The Responsible Down Standard is owned and managed by Textile Exchange. Textile Exchange is a global non-profit that works closely with our members to drive industry transformation in preferred fibers, integrity and standards and responsible supply networks. We identify and share best practices regarding farming, materials, processing, traceability and product end-of-life in order to reduce the textile industry’s impact on the world’s water, soil and air, and the human population.  

First, it is protecting animal welfare, which means holistic respect for animal welfare of the birds from hatching to slaughter and the Five Freedoms of animal welfare are respected.

Second, confident communication. Only products with 100% certified down and feathers may carry the RDS logo.

Third, stakeholder engagement. The RDS was developed with the input of farmers, animal welfare experts, land conservation experts, brands and retailers from all parts of the globe.

Fourth, credible certification. A professional, third party certification body audits each stage in the supply chain.

Fifth, non-live plucking and force-feeding. Any removal of down and feathers from live birds (live-plucking or molt-harvesting) is prohibited; force-feeding is also prohibited.

Six, the chain of custody. Certification ensures that the identity of RDS down and feathers is maintained at all times: from the farm to the final product.

Additionally, there are some animal welfare criteria for farmers and companies we should know. 

  •  NUTRITION Access to sufficient feed and water suited to the animals’ age and needs to maintain normal health and to prevent prolonged hunger, thirst, malnutrition or dehydration.  
  •   LIVING ENVIRONMENT Animals are kept in an environment that provides the conditions and facilities needed for health, safety, comfort and normal behavior. 
  • ANIMAL MANAGEMENT Animals are managed in a way that promotes good health and prevents disease. Sick or injured animals are treated. Husbandry operations are carried in a way that minimizes pain and distress. 
  • HANDLING AND TRANSPORT  Good human-animal relationships are in place and animals are handled and transported around the farm and off the farm in a way that protects welfare. 
  • MANAGEMENT, PLANS AND PROCEDURES Farmers have a clear strategy and set of protocols to safeguard the welfare of their animals, and to demonstrate compliance to the relevant RDS. 
  • SLAUGHTER The slaughter process prevents or minimizes pain and distress. All animals are stunned (rendered unconscious and insensible to pain) prior to slaughter. 

Some big brands also put emphasis on the RDS such as THE NORTH FACE and UNIQLO. A couple of years ago THE NORTH FACE became aware of the potential mistreatment of animals in the food supply chain from which they sourced down. They had been relying on self-declarations from suppliers but it became clear that this was not sufficient. The down supply chain is very complex and the animals and raw materials typically change hands many times, making traceability difficult. Due to this complexity, they developed the RDS and they sought input from experts in animal welfare, standard development, and materials traceability. A team from The North Face traveled to China and Eastern Europe to evaluate our supply chains in those regions. Because down can be sourced from small farms as well as large slaughterhouses, the team evaluated everything from hatcheries to family farms to processing facilities. UNIQLO also suggests that they only use sustainably sourced down and feathers from farms that seek to minimize their impact on wildfowl. All of they partner garment factories involved in the production of down products are RDS (Responsible Down Standard) certified as of the end of 2019 and they will continue to support the RDS going forward.


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