Mountain Equipment DOWN CODEX – Ethical Down Sourcing

Mountain Equipment launched their DOWN CODEX™ project in 2009, comprising a range of rules and commitments designed to ensure that their down supply chain is ethical, traceable and transparent.

Mountain Equipment has throughout its 50 year history committed a great deal of time and effort into ensuring that they consistently obtain the very best qualities of down for use in their sleeping bags and clothing. However, in recent years it has become all too apparent that there are also ethical, environmental and animal welfare issues relating to the sourcing of down.

Whilst Mountain Equipment have not been able to change everything overnight, they are working hard with their suppliers to understand everything there is to know about the down supply chain, so that they can take steps to improve it wherever possible.

With this in mind, Mountain Equipment launched their DOWN CODEX™ project in 2009, comprising a range of rules and commitments that they expected their down supply chain to adhere to and achieve.  Their aim: to have the most comprehensive and transparent auditing mechanism for a down supply chain in the outdoor industry, worldwide.

Down Codex

Key Stages of the DOWN CODEX™:

Stage 1: Rules & Commitments

Mountain Equipment Ukranian Geese

  • Mountain Equipment will continue to obtain the very best qualities of down from a variety of sources across the world.
  • All of the down that Mountain Equipment use should be a by-product of food production and be obtained after birds have been humanely slaughtered.
  • There should be no live plucking, or live harvesting of down.
  • No birds should be force fed during the fattening process before slaughter.
  • The birds should be kept in good conditions and raised to high welfare standards appropriate for ducks and geese. They should be free to roam compounds and have barns to shelter in with good access to fresh water and natural food. Stocking densities, i.e. how many birds per square metre, should be lower than recommended maximums.
  • After collection the down should be cleaned and sorted, using modern water based methods that do not require the use of solvents.
  • Every batch of down bought by Mountain Equipment should be tested for cleanliness, composition and fill power. Independent testing should be carried out by the IDFL and all fill power tests should be measured and stated according to the International IDFB Lorch cylinder method.

Mountain Equipment Chineese DucksStage 2: Communication with Suppliers

  • Every one of these rules and commitments has been communicated to all of Mountain Equipment’s suppliers. These suppliers now understand that should they wish to continue to supply Mountain Equipment, they must comply.

Stage 3: The Auditing & Traceability System

  • This is where Mountain Equipment have gone further than anybody else in the outdoor clothing and equipment industry. They have now set up an auditing process using a third party; the Independent Down and Feather Laboratory (IDFL), to check that what they are being told about their down supply is actually true, and that their suppliers are adhering to their rules and meeting commitments.
  • The DOWN CODEX™ audit seeks to investigate every stage of the Mountain Equipment down supply chain, including wholesalers, sorting houses, slaughterhouses and individual farms where the birds are raised.
  • Through regular audits of its suppliers, in partnership with the IDFL, Mountain Equipment strive to confirm that the standards of their Codex are being upheld. If standards fall below guidelines then new suppliers must be sought, and must be acquired within six months of a failed audit.

Final Note on Ethical Down Standards

It would be false to say that the ethical issues within the down supply chain for the outdoor clothing and equipment market have been completely solved. Abuses still occur, and whilst force-feeding for foi gras remains legal across much of the world (thankfully it is already outlawed in the UK), brands must remain vigilant against such practices. Having said that, the situation is undoubtedly improving, and as the most progressive outdoor brands including Mountain Equipment continue to pioneer strategies such as their DOWN CODEX™, Webtogs will continue to provide customers with more and more ethically sourced down clothing and sleeping bags.