The Global Organic Textile Standard: sustainability throughout the entire textile production chain
In 2002 representatives of the Organic Trade Association (OTA), the Japan Organic Cotton Association (JOCA), the Soil Association and the International Association of the Natural Textile Industry (InternationalerVerband der Naturtextilwirtschaft – IVN) met to begin the work of the International Working Group by developing the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). Today the GOTS is the most comprehensive mark of ecological quality, which, although the logo shows an item of clothing, is equally relevant to home textiles. The label reflects the wish of many consumers to be able to buy textiles which are sustainable in ecological, health and social terms. And in reality, no other label so comprehensively combines all these aspects. Claudia Kersten, GOTS representative for Germany, Austria and Switzerland, comments in the following terms: “What is special about GOTS is that it covers all stages of the process from cultivation to the consumer.”
This means that all raw materials used come from genetically unmodified plants and animals. All stages of manufacture – i.e. cleaning, spinning, weaving, dying, finishing and sewing – are regulated. Conventional production is separated from GOTS production in order to avoid any contamination.
In addition, inspectors from officially accredited certification centres ensure responsible use and treatment of water. Chemists check samples of textiles for unauthorised pesticides and chemicals at all stages of production. Moreover the textiles go through constant quality controls, where they are tested, amongst other things, for light fastness and wear resistance. And, in addition, monitoring of working conditions from a health and social point of view is also part of the GOTS. As far as the composition of the end product is concerned, the GOTS label provides for a minimum of 70 percent and the GOTS “organic” label for a minimum of 95 percent certified organic fibre.
Factories that would like to be certificated according to the GOTS criteria must adapt their manufacturing processes accordingly. In 2006, when the certification scheme began, 27 companies had decided on this course of action. By 2010 there were already approximately 1,500 companies with 2,754 separate premises. They are all recorded in an internet database that is available to producers, buyers and end consumers alike. And they all represent a development that Kersten sums up as follows: “I think that labels will grow in importance in the future, because they provide the evidence of companies’ sustainable developments.”
Photo 1, 2 and 3 © GOTS-IWG