You’ll find a wide variety of fibres and materials in the outdoor clothing and gear world. Materials like down and wool were common before synthetics were invented, and they still offer amazing performance and quality. When MEC Label uses animal fibres, we believe it’s our responsibility to make sure that animal welfare standards are being upheld.
Being able to trace down and wool back to the farms where they come from and verifying on-farm husbandry practices are critical elements of animal welfare standards. The Responsible Down Standard and Responsible Wool Standard allows MEC and other brands to do just that, and feel confident about down and wool in products.
Down gives you the greatest warmth for the least weight, making it the preferred insulation for sleeping bags and jackets for many people. But we know there are animal welfare concerns in how ducks and geese are raised, and we share those concerns. So MEC Label sources down for our products from birds that are responsibly raised and cared for, and we prohibit live-plucking and force-feeding. We ensure this commitment through the Responsible Down Standard (RDS), which provides a traceable system that holds the supply chain to a high standard of animal welfare, making sure the birds can express their normal behaviour and are free from hunger, thirst, discomfort, pain, fear and distress.
As of 2016, all down used for MEC Label gear and clothing is RDS certified. Several brands we carry also have implemented third-party standards to ensure responsible down, including the RDS and the Traceable Down Standard.
Most of the MEC Label items with wool in them, like base layers, use merino wool. We source wool because it’s great at managing warmth even when damp, and it’s naturally odour-resistant. We do not allow mulesing of sheep (a painful practice used to prevent flies from laying eggs in the folds of skin) for wool in MEC Label clothing.
Other challenges with sheep farming and wool are related to overgrazing and sheep handling and shearing. Sheep-farming practices can vary by region and by individual farms. To better understand country-specific issues, we require our wool suppliers to let us know the country of origin for all wool fibres and to explain how they evaluate farms in their supply chain.
MEC wants these practices to become more common across the industry, so we took part in an international working group with other brands, wool suppliers and animal welfare organizations to create a global standard: the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS). This standard is designed to protect animal welfare, ensure responsible land management, provide traceability and give people clear information so they can make responsible choices. We are proud of our existing suppliers who have been able to demonstrate that they meet these requirements and are in the process of being certified to the RWS. We’ll communicate this achievement more broadly as soon as the certified wool makes its way through the supply chain to our products.