Now on to our fourth instalment of the ‘What Is…’ series, we’re giving you the 411 on GOTS.
Not to be confused with your favourite HBO show, the Global Organic Textile Standard or GOTS is the world’s leading textile processing standard for organic fibres. This covers not only ecological but also social criteria, and is backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain.
The gold standard for certified organic clothing, the purpose of GOTS is to define world-wide recognised requirements that ensure organic status of textiles, from harvesting of the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing up to labelling in order to provide a credible assurance to the end consumer: you.
Image courtesy: Organic cotton farming | 8Y8
This means it integrates all of the textile processing stages, from the fibre to the finished product: the raw fibre must be organic farming certified and all the manufacturing processes involved must be inspected. Organic production is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic, persistent pesticides and fertilisers, which also have serious health implications on farmers and neighbouring communities. The aim is to guarantee the traceability, the use of chemical friendly processes with regards to the environment and the consumer’s health, to ensure a quality system, a reduction of energy and to respect basic social criteria.
With this in place it allows farmers and manufacturers to export their organic fabrics and garments with one certification accepted in all major markets. This means there’s no room for confusion, with a clear and unambiguous understanding of the contents.
Image courtesy: Bon Label GOTS-certified Cotton
The GOTS quality assurance system is thorough and covers a number of key criteria. If you want to know more, we’ve summarised the most important of these criteria below:
– A textile product carrying the GOTS label grade ‘organic’ must contain a minimum of 95% certified organic fibres whereas a product with the label grade ‘made with organic’ must contain a minimum of 70% certified organic fibres.
– All chemical inputs (e.g. dyes and process chemicals) must be evaluated and meet basic requirements on toxicity and biodegradability.
– Prohibition of critical inputs such as toxic heavy metals, formaldehyde, aromatic solvents, functional nano particles, genetically modified organisms (GMO) and their enzymes.
– All operators must have an environmental policy including target goals and procedures to minimise waste and discharges.
– Packaging material must not contain PVC. Paper or cardboard used in packaging material, hang tags, swing tags etc. must be recycled or certified according to FSC or PEFC.
– In terms of social criteria: workers have freedom of association and their right to collective bargaining is respected, safe and hygienic working conditions, no child labour, provide living wages, working hours are not excessive, no discrimination is practised, and regular employment is provided.
Certification of the entire textile supply chain:
– Farmers must be certified according to a recognised international or national organic farming standard that is accepted in the country where the final product will be sold.
– Certifiers of fibre producers must be internationally recognised through ISO 65/17065, NOP and/or IFOAM accreditation.
– All stakeholders must undergo a onsite annual inspection cycle and must hold a valid GOTS scope certificate applicable for the production/trade of the textiles to be certified.
Note: Due to advancements and innovations over the years, the certification body has a revision process whereby they review and update their certification requirements when necessary. Version 5.0 was published on 1st of March 2017.
With GOTS relying on a dual system to check compliance with the relevant criteria consisting of on-site auditing and residue testing, you can be confident when you buy clothing that’s GOTS-certified, it has been made in a positive way with respect to people and the planet.
Image courtesy: GOTS certification
Having a third-party, independent organisation that stipulates requirements throughout the supply chain for both ecology and labour conditions in textile and apparel manufacturing using organically produced raw materials is absolutely necessary if we are to move towards a more transparent and fair fashion industry. There’s no denying it remains more expensive than non-organic textiles, but it’s about the power of numbers, economies of scale – the more demand there is, the more affordable it will become.
So, don’t settle, and continue to demand it by supporting those brands who are already committed to investing in positive change.