Down Sourcing

By Nick

We love the fact you find Alpkit an approachable brand; we love to answer your questions positive or negative and use them all to improve what we do and how we do it. If we get a difficult query we’ll beat ourselves up over it until we can find the best way to solve it; in essence we care about what we do. However we are realistic and we want to be here in 5, 10, 20 years' time. For that to happen we have to co-exist with larger companies to survive and it can take time for current industry practices to change and become 100% trustworthy. Larger brands can apply much more pressure to a supply chain to change environmental and ethical practices than any small brand individually; this is why we are so thrilled to be part of the EU Down Task Group. We would urge you to ask questions to all manufacturers of down products and not just those from the outdoor industry as things will only improve if customers drive the change.

Where is your ethical and environmental statement?
Alpkit has never set out in stone or even created a list of our ethical or environmental convictions. That doesn't mean we don't care, it's just that there have been too many companies saying stuff for so long about how great they are in reducing the amount of chocolate they eat or their ban on the use of kitten fur. We know for some brands these words are taken at face value and increase sales. We are conscious about the impact our brand has on the environment, its inhabitants and what we are doing to minimise it but we like to keep our eco credentials off our marketing agenda.

Do you use down in any of your products that has been removed from poultry by live plucking?
We buy all our goose down and duck down from non-force fed and non-live plucked sources. We could send you a piece of paper from our suppliers saying 100% certified non-force fed and non-live plucked but this doesn’t mean we can say hand on heart that someone somewhere is doing something they shouldn't. The supply chain is extremely complicated and despite any amount of audits, there are always loopholes in the system. The current auditing process makes it prohibitive for any brand, big or small to be 100% sure. The system is based on trust: we know and trust our manufacturer, they know and trust their down wholesaler, and the wholesaler trusts the farm.

Are you happy that you are doing the most you can?
We are happy that the down that we are buying is from non-live plucked and non-force fed sources. As a very small player in the market if we could afford the cost to personally verify every detail of every shipment it would just confirm the supply chain paper trail and possibly a quick snapshot of the actual supply chain. We have been aware of the issues with live plucking since our inception and have strived to use down that is derived from the food industry, but this relies heavily on trust until the entire down and feather industry bans it. We are a member of the European Outdoor Group, EU Down Task Group, which is real positive step for the industry and this has opened our eyes to the complexity of down sourcing. Very early on in its meetings the issue of down coming from EU fowl that had been bred for foie gras production came up. These birds are not lived plucked but the force feeding of geese is equally intolerable.

The outdoor industry is a small to medium user of down of which we are a tiny purchaser. We have to choose our suppliers carefully so we are able to trust that our wants and needs are adhered to. This is one of the reasons we have moved the production of our Filo jacket to a new supplier in 2013. Not because we didn’t trust our previous supplier but the checks and inspections done by our new factory provide us with a further level of confidence.

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