Working Together for Animal Welfare

By Aiko Bode (Fenix Outdoor), Kerstin Wolf, Fjällräven
02:00 PM, July 16, 2014

As part of the Fenix Outdoor group, Fjällräven became a participant to the UN Global Compact Principles in 2012. As an outdoor company, we strive to focus in particular on the environmental principles of the Global Compact and to address our current impacts as well as look for innovative solutions to certain issues. The precautionary principle is a guiding principle in our environmental strategy because our products are often made with materials derived from natural sources. We have been making down products for more than 40 years.

An important question that arises in this endeavor is how to make high-quality down products with respect to animal welfare? We continuously ask ourselves this question in our business conduct and are in the process of finding an answer. We have managed to establish a production chain with consistent and strict controls and believe we have come close to achieving sustainability in this respect. Fruitful partnerships are part of our approach. We are convinced that a holistic approach and being a pioneer – leaving the beaten path – are key to coping with today’s challenges and finding working solutions. This is what we are striving for at Fjällräven.

Down remains one of the most efficient insulators available for cold-weather outdoor garments and sleeping bags. According to the International Down and Feather Testing Laboratory (IDFL): “Down
and feathers have the lowest carbon footprint of any other fill material, both natural and synthetic.” However, down can be problematic to source due to the fact that suppliers often buy from diverse – and sometimes even unknown – sources. Thus, the feathers and down may stem from live-plucked or force-fed animals – goose or ducks. Fjällräven has avoided these practices and begun to build a process whereby down is gathered from slaughtered animals as a byproduct of the food industry, ensuring that no live-plucking or force-feeding takes place. To ensure that the insulation used is environmentally sound and of the highest possible standard for animal protection, Fjällräven did not wait for the food or outdoor industries to change
their practices. We did it our way, the Fjällräven Way. Today, we know that our approach was right, and we are now joined by numerous reputable brands that are striving to achieve a similar sourcing process.

Feedback from our stakeholders

We remain in constant dialogue with our stakeholders. Fruitful and critical communication helps us to develop. Fjällräven values the feedback and suggestions given by some of our stakeholders and has responded to critical remarks by optimizing and controlling the processes regarding aspects relating to animal welfare.

Our response: A controlled down flow

Fjällräven only uses goose down and works exclusively with one down supplier, which, in turn, works with selected farms and one slaughterhouse. All Fjällräven goose down is purchased from this slaughterhouse and represents a byproduct of the food industry with no force-feeding. We purchase the down all year round to make sure we get the estimated volume and to guarantee that the down comes from the designated source. However, there are seasonal peaks, during which intensified controls take place. During the entire
process, down for Fjällräven products is transported in specially marked and sealed bags to avoid it being mixed with down from other producers.

Fjällräven’s audit team oversees the process by conducting both announced and unannounced audits regularly. We visit the farms, we know how the eggs are laid, how the fledglings hatch, how the goslings are raised, and we control how the birds are kept and what they are fed. The down’s quality and cleanliness is
controlled by the IDFL. Our down flow is also regularly reviewed by a third party veterinarian from Sweden who has accredited the Fjällräven down flow. Logistics-wise, the distances between farm and slaughterhouse are kept to a minimum so that birds are never transported for longer than necessary.

Every party involved has to sign and act in accordance with the standards set in the Fjällräven Code of Conduct.

Focus areas are:

  • well-being of geese when farmed
  • no live plucking
  • no force-feeding
  • transportation
  • loading and unloading the geese
  • well-being and handling of geese on site before slaughtering
  • stunning
  • control of the process of finishing the down

In 2010, Fjällräven received an honorable mention from Animal Welfare Sweden for its down handling practices.

Photo: Annett B/Pixelio
Photo: Annett B/Pixelio

The impact: Cooperation with China

The process, the partnership, and the approach chosen by Fjällräven was highly appreciated by Chinese provincial governments, and hence became part of local and regional animal welfare regulations. We strive for such partnerships because only by cooperating with all those responsible are positive outcomes possible. Fjällräven acts beyond its own down process to “leave the base camp better than we found it.” Making a contribution toward the ethical treatment of animals is what we want to achieve. We recognized that it was only possible through ongoing communication with our supplier and experts from NGOs as well as with the involvement of governmental organizations. We strive for such working collaborations using transparent and open dialogues in order to make further improvements.

The future: Working together in partnerships

As a participant of the UN Global Compact, we act in accordance with its Ten Principles and its values. In the future, we want to continue making business in this way. With the help of our stakeholders, we will engage in a continuous learning experience that will guide us in this process. We will continue to speak to experts and suppliers. We will listen, learn, and share our findings in order to ensure that every step in the production chain is of the highest possible standard from an animal welfare perspective.

Bird farms
Fjällräven has one contracted down supplier. This supplier buys geese from regional farms in the area. Fjällräven’s quality control team inspects these farms regularly and carries out controls on site.

Together with bird farms, transport suppliers, and slaughterhouses, Fjällräven and animal protection experts have developed best practice methods for the most stress- and pain-free transportation of birds. We work continuously together to improve factors that can make transportation even more efficient and safer for the birds. We strive to keep the distances between farms and slaughterhouses to a minimum so that birds are never transported longer than necessary.

Fjällräven’s supplier deals with one slaughterhouse, which follows the guidelines laid out in the Code of Conduct. During the slaughtering process, a representative from our down supplier is present to ensure that down that will be used in our products only comes from dead birds from the selected farms. The meat is used for food production and the feathers are collected and put into marked bags that are closed and then transported to a separate drying area. The drying area is used for Fjällräven down only and isolated from other down and feathers to make sure they are not mixed. After the drying process, the down is put back into the dedicated Fjällräven bags and transported to the down supplier for finishing.

Down supplier
At the down supplier, the down is washed with an environmentally-friendly shampoo. The water is cleaned and filtered before it is released, and the clean down is then dried in a tumble drier. In order to ensure that the down meets our strict requirements, it undergoes a filtering process. The IDFL conducts tests on the down’s quality and cleanliness. Down is saved from the IDFL test to be able to create a cross-test of garments. The tested, high-quality down is then placed in new bags that are sealed and marked with Fjällräven as well as the down quality, quantity, and composition in order to guarantee its origin. It is then sent to our factories.

In the factories, only the down in Fjällräven bags is used for padding of our products. Fjällräven’s quality control team is present during production to ensure that the correct down quality is used. We often ask that our bags and those of other customers in the supplier factory be separated. Random checks are made and cross-checked with samples taken by the IDFL. In this way, we can ensure that the down has been handled correctly throughout the entire process.

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Aiko Bode
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About the Authors
Bode, Aiko

Aiko Bode is Chief Sustainability Officer at Fenix Outdoor. Before he worked in the same Position for TÜV Rheinland.

Wolf, Kerstin

Fjällräven is a Swedish company specialising in outdoor equipment — mostly clothing and rucksacks. Fjällräven was founded in 1960 by Åke Nordin (1936–2013). The original product was an external frame rucksack. The Fjällräven rucksack proved comfortable as well as durable, and along with outdoor clothing made from tent fabric it made the brand well known in just a decade. The company has a strong market presence in the Nordic countries. It is also represented in other European countries and in particular Germany. Among the more well-known products are Greenland jackets and various versions of the Kånken rucksack.

Short summary of companies pledges:

  • do not sell real fur, whether as clothes, accessories or other products. Fjällräven has signed the international Retailer Commitment Against Fur and we instead use our synthetic alternative, Arctic Fur.
  • do not approve of mulesing, the surgical procedure carried out on merino sheep in Australia to make them less attractive for blowflies, and therefore have decided to shift our purchases to suppliers that can guarantee mulesing-free merino wool.
  • do not accept the plucking of live geese. We only use high-quality down that comes from contracted farms where the geese are slaughtered for food. We received an honourable mention in 2010 for our control of our down process.
  • support the endangered arctic fox by donating money to supplement the food supply close to inhabited dens and by increasing the general public's knowledge about the plight of the arctic fox. This project is conducted in cooperation with Stockholm University.


The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect CSR Manager's editorial policy.
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