GOTS certification in an internationally recognized labeling for “ethical” products made with fabric, but what does it actually mean?
By their definition, GOTS is “the world’s leading processing standard for textiles made from organic fibers.” They go on to say, “It defines high-level environmental criteria along the entire organic textiles supply chain and requires compliance with social criteria as well.” So unlike other labeling systems like Organic Exchange (OE), GOTS verifies the environmental and social criteria throughout a product’s full textile supply chain.
GOTS was created by 4 International working groups; International Association Natural Textile Industry (Germany); Soil Association (England); Organic Trade Association (USA); Japan Organic Cotton Association (Japan).
GOTS has nothing to do with the actual farming of the fiber (although the textile must be certified organic by another entity), it only covers post-harvest–so encompassing the processing and manufacturing components such as cleaning, ginning, spinning, dying, and sewing. GOTS’ checks on components like chemical inputs (i.e., dyes, auxiliaries and process chemicals) for toxicity and biodegradability, no packing material must not use PVC, and making sure the use of toxic heavy metals, formaldehyde, aromatic solvents, and GMOs are nonexistent.
In 2012, 3,016 textile facilities were certified in more than 50 countries (mainly throughout India, Turkey and China).
The GOTS organization doesn’t inspect any facilities itself, but instead uses certified third-parties to investigate production. Globally, there are 16 GOTS approved certifiers. Each facility must undergo a scheduled inspection once a year, plus one surprise visit to retain certification.
What’s the bill?
Much like an organic food certification, labeling can be expensive–“As a rough estimation one facility can expect annual certification cost in a range between 1200 and 3000 euro.” Plus they must pay an annual fee to the third-party “approved” certifier for about 120 euros.
Only a handful of manufacturers are GOTS certified: There are 15 manufactures in the US labeled with GOTS, Seventh Generation being one of the largest and well known.
Is the product entirely organic? Not particularly.
To label something as ‘organic’ requires a minimum of 95% certified organic fibers in the final product. And the GOTS label grade ‘made with organic’ requires a minimum of 70% certified organic fibers in the final product. So, a maximum of 10% synthetic fibers can be used. Socks, leggings and sportswear fall into a different category and can be made from up to 25% synthetic fibers.
You can check out GOTS’ public database on all currently certified facilities.
As mentioned, GOTS certification can cover everything post-harvest–from spinning, ginning, finishing, printing, manufacturing, weaving among others–but then I wonder, if only one arm of the process is certified can an item still be labeled as GOTS certified? Or must each step in the entire supply chain comply with GOTS standards?
Do you think this standard gives the consumer the reassurance they are looking for?