The Deep “Down” Dark truth behind the Feather Plucking Business


The North face is a popular American outdoor product company that specializes mostly in winter gear such as coats, jackets, fleece, hats, gloves, etc. It is a well-known and respected brand, yet recently it has been facing some ethical challenges in their operations. There has been a lot of controversy over down insulation. Down insulation is used due to the benefits it has of providing warmth during extreme cold weather. Yet the process of collecting these feathers is not so nice and simple. Basically many of the ducks and geese are often plucked alive, and “many of the fine feathers in comforters and puffy coats come from birds that were force-fed to make foie gras” (Stock). The North Face is one of the brands to recognize this problem in their supply chain and their goal is to create one that all customers can have a positive thought of. This relates back to our class since we discussed some of the new challenges that operations managers face, such as the increasing global focus, ethical, social responsibility and sustainability challenges. Basically companies are expected to develop products that are of high quality and sustainability. This could be seen in the actions North face is taking by changing their operations into something much more ethical, sustainable that affects everyone around the world. In the article it states, “We’re trying to change the down industry on a global level,” says Adam Mott, director of sustainability at North Face, a unit of apparel conglomerate VF Corp. “And we’re trying to create a standard that’s inclusive enough that anyone can use it”(Stock). Northface is changing its certification standard to become more environmentally focused, the birds that the feathers come from cannot be raised in harsh conditions. They need appropriate food, water and living conditions. Northface is going to have this supply chain documented clearly so that only qualified feathers will be turned into down insulation in their products. By next year a lot of products will be labeled with “RDS” which stands for “renewable down standard”. Recently a lot of other companies such as H&M, Eddie Bauer and Marmot have caught on with this major change, while Patagonia has been having clean down program for over six years. Yet the biggest challenge companies such as the Northface have to face is to convince duck and goose farmers in China and Eastern Europe, who provide most of the feathers, to change their operations and become environmentally focused, since most of the money they make, comes from meat of the birds and not the feathers. Even though there are still many obstacles along the way, Northface is following a new more sustainable path through it’s RDS program that they hope will raise consumer interest and allow them to compete with their biggest rival Patagonia.

Stock, Kyle. “North Face and H&M Try to Clean Up the Down Business.” Bloomberg Business Week. Bloomberg, 20 Oct. 2014. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.

Do you think there are other challenges that operations managers of companies such as Northface are going to face?

Do you think by refocusing its ethical approach to down insulation and creating new standards will benefit Northface as a Company? Will the sales and consume interest increase, even though Northface will be competing with sustainable brands like Patagonia who have their own clean down program (PDF) as early as 2007?



The goal of every business is to maximize profits, but when a company does this by making false environmental claims to make their refrigerators appear more energy efficient it makes us take a step back to look at the real problem. LG electronics agreed to compensate thousands of consumers after two of their fridges were found to contain an illegal device that activates an energy saving mode when it detects room conditions similar to those in a test laboratory. This device has been banned in Australia since 2007.


Though this fridge claims to be more environmentally efficient, in reality it will end up raising your electricity bill $250 a year. This fridge isn’t only a danger to your wallet but to your food as well, because it can shut off when it is opened causing the food in your fridge to get spoiled. This fridge is a danger to your food, wallet and the environment. This isn’t the first time that LG has been caught making false claims about their products; the third time is the charm for this company.


Have companies learned nothing from incidents like the Toyota debacle. When accelerator problems were brought to attention Toyota denied that their cars were faulty. Why aren’t companies like Toyota and LG held more responsible for their actions? It is more common nowadays to see dishonesty than honesty in business, instead of allowing customers who bought these fridges to return them LG gave affected customers $331 to cover for the unexpected increase in their electricity bills. I can’t seem to wrap my head around this situation; the leaders of this company never apologized to their customers.  LG could’ve done more to win over their customers.


Being honest has put some companies on top; take for example Home Depot, after an article called “Is Home Depot Shafting Customers” published by MSN Money. CEO Frank Blake quickly responded not only by justifying their recent strategies but also with an apology “Sorry we let you down”. After this public apology Home Depot found themselves with a 22.9% increase in earnings. Much can be learned about these ethical companies; clearly we can see that consumers respond well to companies with trustworthy leaders.


Do CEO’s and executives of these companies not think that people are going to find out?




Social Networking after Death? Google, Twitter, and Facebook

Social media became heavily popular in the early 2000’s when MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Friendster were launched. These sites allowed users to communicate in other ways besides email. Today, there are tons of different kinds of social networking websites. However, Facebook, Twitter, and Google remain of the most popular. These networking sites allow users to communicate in different ways. Google focuses more on email and/or chat, while Facebook and Twitter allow users to communicate with one another with “statuses” and “tweets,” respectively. These social media sites recently took it a step further and introduced ways of tweeting and messaging after death.  By allowing this to happen, are companies just really desperate to keep their social media outlets buzzing with posts from the dead?

Google introduced the Google Inactive Account Manager or what it has been called lately, “Google Death Manager.” Those that are heavily involved with social media accounts probably have wondered what happens to their account after they pass. Google has a plan for those that care what will happen to their Google services such as Gmail, Blogger, Google Drive, Google+, Google Voice, and so on. Basically, you have two choices. You can either either pass on your “digital life” to someone you trust, or you can simply set up a time of inactivity. You can choose from one, three, six, nine, or 12 months. If you happen to not login in the certain amount of time you chose, then Google will either contact/alert 10 of your trusted contacts (and share your data with them) or you can simply have it set up to delete your account.  Personally, I think this is not a bad idea at all. If someone disappears or dies suddenly, maybe there is information in their Google account that will help solve the case. I support privacy in every aspect all the way, but this can really help in a time of need.

Next, Facebook has introduced an app called “Ifidie” that allows users to send messages to your friends after your death. I believe the  If I die app  is a bit too much. The Facebook administraters post a public Facebook message or send out private message to specific people. The admin are allowed to do this once at least three of the trusted friends you choose report your death to the Facebook service. I understand we are in the digital era, however, I believe this is just too much. Again, is this to keep the buzz going?

Twitter has also introduced social media after death with _LivesOn. This is a tool that monitors your Twitter habits and patterns then after your death, it will continue Tweet for you.

Perhaps social networking after death is for those who are more comfortable with death. Personally, I think these companies are trying to get the buzz however they can. Would you like to be active on social media even after your death?


Concerning Environmental Sensitivity: Where Does Responsibility Fall?

Bill Hoffman – owner of Aptos Jewelers
Click the above image to be taken to the New York Times article associated with this post.

As students in an operational management class, we study all issues involved with operating a business.  We are taught that operating in an ethical manner is paramount and all-encompassing.  That an organization’s leaders must be cognizant of the impact their decisions have internally and externally – specifically in regard to the environment.  The article used for this post describes what happens when the government forces businesses to function in a certain way.  I found this article intriguing and in reading it, I found myself extremely conflicted.  Below is a brief synopsis.


More than two-dozen cities in California have enacted a ban on the use of plastic shopping bags and have begun charging between 5 to 10 cents to use a paper bag.  The movement has created a divide between shop owners like Bill Hoffman – owner of Aptos Jewelers in Aptos, California – and their counties.   Hoffman, who has been one of the more vocal opponents of the regulation, feels that charging his customers (who are often spending thousands in his store) for paper bags is crass.  Hoffman also is of the belief that the way he packages his product is part of the experience he offers.  He is offering a high-end product that requires high-end packaging.  After filing with Santa Cruz County for an exemption from the ordinance, Hoffman was turned down.

The push toward reusable bags has also upset the plastics industry, which is pursuing legal action against counties in California that have enacted a plastic bag ban.  Industry representatives claim that there is insufficient evidence to support that banning plastic bags will have any drastic impact on the environment.

Stephen Joseph, who is the primary voice and attorney for the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition, has argued that bans in cities that have a high tourist presence (such as San Francisco – which is initiating a plastic bag ban this month) will be particularly ineffective because tourists typically don’t travel with reusable shopping bags.  This has led Joseph to deduce that tourists will begin buying reusable plastic bags when they arrive in a location, and will dispose of them upon their departure.  This, of course, would make a huge dent in the purpose of the ban.

When questioned, many consumers voiced a frustration with the ban/paper bag charge, but expressed that it’s ultimately necessary.*

Questions to consider:

  • How do you feel about a movement of this type?
  • Should the government step in and ban materials that are harmful to the environment?
  • Should it be up to the business owner to ensure he/she is operating his/her business in an environmentally responsible manner?
  • Should consumers take the responsibility?


* The information provided in this post was drawn from the following New York Times article:

ScannerShirts Blur Airport Body Scan Images.

Recently, I went to L.A. When I was waiting at security checkpoint, the U.S Custom officer asked me to do the full-body scanners. That was not my first time to do this; I could not count the times that I have been to this situation. However, I have read an article about this controversial issue that how to led entrepreneur Marc Carey to launch a line of airport underwear for men, women and children. His company, Kentucky based, markets underwear with smiley faces and patriotic symbols like stats and the U.S seal, strategically placed to obscure private parts if the wearer must do the full-body scan. I am wondering, is it ethical to market merchandise that aims to thwart government-mandated initiatives like full-body scans at airports?

However, there are some pros and cons in this issue:

Pro: Full-body scans are revealing invasive and undignified; moreover, merchandise like airport underwear does not prevent security personnel from adequately screening travelers for prohibited devices.

Con: Scanning requires only that travelers stand in a screening room, fully clothed for only 15-25 seconds. Experts claim the extremely low dose of radiation poses no health threat. Furthermore, an item like airport underwear provokes consumers’ worst fears about inappropriate contact.

Therefore, given the circumstances, consumers need to exercise their own good judgment about whether to purchase special travel underwear.

What do you think?

Sources:Fran Golden,”Airport Scanner Blocking Underwear a Hit,” AOL Travel, January 5,2011.