Patagonia, a leader in outdoor gear as well as a leader in sustainable and innovative supply chain, vows to source 100% of its down from traceable sources that follow the company’s Traceable Down Standard. The Traceable Down Standard requires suppliers, from the goose farm all the way to the garment factory, to follow a set of guidelines that ensures all geese are treated humanely.
The move by Patagonia is one that many large companies across the world are making – giving consumers visibility to the sources of the companies’ products. Supply Chain traceability is a growing topic of interest for both consumers and companies. As consumers gain more access to information (thanks to the internet) and as more consumers demand quality products that are ethically and sustainably sourced, companies are having to prove that their products live up to the “green hype”.
Patagonia is already a pioneer in Supply Chain Traceability. Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles, a map that shows the location of the farms, textile mills, and factories that make up Patagonia’s supply chain is a great example of Supply Chain Traceability. More companies are starting to employ this supply chain mapping tactic, but Patagonia is one of the first companies that I know of to so prominently display the source of its products.
This supply chain map brings high level visibility to Patagonia. Users can see where cotton, down, etc. are farmed; the textile mills where raw materials are woven into fabric, and the factories where the fabric is manufactured into final products. Patagonia provides information on each vendor listed on the map. This information includes the name, location, products, number of employees, and gender ratio.
Google Maps has been around for almost a decade. 10 years. That’s it… And while consumers have become well versed in the real time mapping technology, companies and supply chains are only just starting to share where their products come from. For various reasons, revealing product sourcing has been a taboo for major corporations around the world. Public supply chain mapping may give up sourcing strategies to competitors, reveal that a company works in a conflict zone, contributes to deforestation, etc. The cost to reveal the supply chain outweighed the benefits. However, as Patagonia is showing, the benefits are starting to outweigh the costs.
Patagonia is a premium brand with a loyal customer base. Patagonia customers are curious, adventurous, and committed to protecting the natural “playgrounds” of the world. Revealing Patagonia’s supply chain fits perfectly with the mentality of Patagonia’s customers; customers who are willing to buy Patagonia products at a higher price because of the high quality of product as well as the company’s commitment to protecting the environment.
By mapping their supply chain, Patagonia is now dedicated to improving the accountability and quality of their suppliers. Thus the commitment to 100% traceable down. I currently work for a company as a procurer of raw materials. Collecting the locations of my suppliers, putting them on a map, and giving a brief synopsis of each supplier is not all that difficult. And it is only a snap shot of the supply chain at one moment in time. But one can not stop at just the initial mapping of the supply chain. Taking the time to develop such a map enables a company to push further into Supply Chain Traceability AND supplier accountability. You can’t manage what you don’t measure…
Patagonia is able to make the claim that their down is 100% traceable and comes from farms that do not live pluck, do not force feed, and are manufactured in factories that pay fair wages and uphold proper working conditions for employees because Patagonia actively maps and manages its supply chain.