Independent audits are a cornerstone of DOWN CODEX® and are carried out at least every 3 years and by 2022 will be carried out annually. Typically audits are carried out ‘announced’ but we are committed to working towards increasing the amount of ‘unannounced’ visits that we do, but it remains challenging to do so. On occasion, Mountain Equipment employees may accompany auditors for fact-finding purposes but we do not carry out the audits themselves.

Audits are designed to address the rules and standards of DOWN CODEX® and provide a framework for ensuring that animal welfare standards more generally are verified at each and every stage. This involves not only verifying the practices in use at each stage of the supply chain themselves but also that a chain of custody exists from one stage to another.

Once a supply chain has been mapped out we aim to visit every wholesaler, every processor, every slaughterhouse and farm included in a particular supply chain, including ‘Parent Farms’’. Representative sampling is only permissible in larger supply chains where the logistical difficulties, cost and time involved make it impractical to visit each farm individually and even then, the number of farms to be visited is set by the auditor.

The audits cover a broad range of criteria - but the principle rules are considered zero tolerance factors and any evidence of live plucking, live harvesting, force-feeding or of in-humane slaughter or welfare will result in the supplier being removed from our supply chain. However the audits also consider a broad range of other criteria that contribute towards the overall welfare of the bird and some of these points may only be recommended or suggested. By demonstrating a range of criteria beyond the principle rules, the audit also seeks to educate and enlighten suppliers to best practice.

We work with two auditing bodies: the International Down and Feather Laboratory (IDFL) and Control Union. The IDFL is an established and independent global test and auditing house that has worked with us from the very beginning to develop our auditing standards. Control Union are a world-leading auditing body with whom we have been working since 2016; they have extensive experience in auditing and supply chain certification.  

Audits by their very nature can be blunt instruments and we recognise that for suppliers some of what we ask for may seem unusual or at odds with their local practices. And so where an audit identifies standards which could be improved, but which fall underneath the threshold of being zero tolerance rules we will discuss the feasibility of improvements with the supplier. Sometimes it may be that we cannot influence behavioural change, in which case it is sometimes easier for us to move supply chains than attempt to change deep rooted practice. 

The executive results of each successful audit are made available online, along with the corresponding quality control report relating to an individual batch of that down. Using a unique 12-digit code found in every one of our down products, the customer can then trace the down found in that particular product.

Pre 2011

Prior to 2011, audits were carried out to document working practices within our supply chain against a list of assumptions. Supply-chains were mapped through paper-trail and document checks and standards verified through face-to-face interviews and photographic records.

2012 - 2014

From 2012, all supply chains were audited against a pre-determined IDFL score-sheet. Supply chain partners are given a score against a range of measures, resulting in an overall score from A-D. In addition to this each overall supply chain is awarded a weighted score for overall risk.

2014 Onwards

All supply chains are audited against a pre-determined IDFL score-sheet and DOWN CODEX® welfare standards scheme. In addition to our principle DOWN CODEX® rules, all suppliers are scored against a wider range of welfare measures. Specific targets are introduced for welfare improvements and corrective action plans issued as a matter of course where necessary.

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