What does 'GOTS' actually mean?

Children's clothing brand | Little Pegs Little boy jumping in the air wearing a green sunglasses print t-shirt and casual green joggers

We use the terms 100% organic cotton regularly as brands, but what does it actually mean?  It's interpretation can be seen very differently to many people, but all it tells you is that you can be assured that the fibres being used are grown organically, the rest of the textiles process on the other hand are perhaps not so sustainable or safe to ourselves, our environment or textiles industry workers.

The only way you can be assured that the whole process of the textiles industry is clean, safe and humane is by buying GOTS certified garments.  The standards used by GOTS are there to ensure that the buyer, the world and the workers will not be harmed.  We see on a regular basis the damage that is being caused by unclear standards and surprisingly mixed messages about what is and isn't safe.

The fashion and textiles industry, as I am sure you have seen in the past through news articles, is the cause of many devastating disasters, not only of human kind, but also on our world.  If you look at the smaller details you will also see that certain parts of the textiles process could be perhaps impacting on your own life's without you realising!

So what is GOTS certification?

The Global Organic Textiles Standards (GOTS) was founded in 2006, although there were standards out there, there were so many different standards existing, in what was a very niche market at the time.  It became too difficult to distinguish between these standards, causing issues for international distribution and recognition of pure organic products.  So in 2002 discussions took place to ensure that there was a global certification, that would enable the textiles industry to monitor, ensure safety and make a positive impact on the environment.   To this day it is still trying to ensure that this becomes a general standardisation for the textiles apparel, but unfortunately there are only 10,388 facilitates that are currently GOTS certified, although there has been a significant increase in the passed few years this is still not enough for us to say that GOTS certification is the 'norm' in the Apparel industry.  For the certification to be completed there are a huge amount of standards that need to be adhered too...

What are the GOTS certification standards?

There are four main criteria; Organic fibres, Ecological and social criteria, all processing stages and third-party certification.  Each of these criteria are certified individually and only once all four criteria are obtained can the garments be certified as GOTS.

Organic fibre criteria: 

There are two types of fibre label criteria, the first being any textiles product must contain a minimum of 70% certified organic fibres 'made with organic fibres'.  If the garment contains a minimum of 95% organic fibres it can be classed as 'organic'.  What does this mean though?

 Organic fibres are required to be grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, insecticides, or herbicides and GMOs (genetic modified organisms).  An organic agriculture is a production process that sustains the health of ecosystems, soil and people. 

These standards are set by a third party organic farming standards. But this isn't the only third-party that is involved in the fibre stage of GOTS certification, for the fibre to become yarn, it also has to be certified by IFOAM family standards.

Ecological & Social Criteria:

The ecological & social criteria is the evaluation of the processing and manufacturing of the textiles, including both the environmental and social elements.  This includes the amount of controlled chemicals being used to the ethical treatment of workers, to become GOTS certified, it is mandatory to meet all of the criteria's.

Environmentally

  1. Separation of conventional fibre products and identification of organic fibre products
  2. Use of GOTS approved colorants and auxiliaries in wet-processing only
  3. Processing units must demonstrate environment management, including wastewater treatment.
  4. Technically quality parameters for colour fastness and shrinkage for finished goods required.
  5. Restrictions on accessories
  6. Restrictions on additional fibre materials
  7. Environmentally hazardous substances prohibited in chemical inputs
  8. Evaluation of toxicity and biodegradability for chemical inputs.

 Social 

  1. Employment is freely chosen
  2. Freedom of association and collective bargaining
  3. Child labour shall not be used
  4. No discrimination is practiced
  5. Occupational health and safety (OHS)
  6. No harassment and violence
  7. Remuneration and assessment of living wage gap
  8. Working time
  9. No precarious employment is provided
  10. Migrant workers

All processing stages criteria:

This section covers the overall processing, from fibre, to manufacturing, to packaging, labelling, trading and distribution.  The GOTS process starts with the first processing stage of the textiles supply chain and then moves through each process to ensure that at every stage the standards are being delivered, met and adhered to with the support of third-party standards.

Third-party certification criteria:

GOTS ensure that every step of the supply chain is to the correct standards, this covers processing, manufacturing and trading of organic textiles, but they also rely on third-party certification, which requires on-site inspection, these are independent third-party GOTS accredited certification bodies and they form the basis of the GOTS monitoring system.  These third-party inspection enable regular inspecting of the supply chain, so that there is no opportunity to drop standards and the promises made by GOTS.

There are many more requirements, but these highlight the key elements and shows how much thought and attention is being done to ensure that what you are buying is as GOTS states, 'The Global Organic Textiles standard (GOTS) is the worldwide leading textiles processing standard for organic fibres, including ecological and social criteria, backed up by independent third-party certification of the entire supply chain.' (Global standards)

So why should you be buying GOTS certified clothing?

Well let's be honest if I haven't already pursued you to start to think about what garments you purchase just based on the information you have just read, then perhaps I shouldn’t be writing this article??

If you want to really make a difference in this world and start to support a cleaner and brighter future for your little ones to live in then, the only real choice you have is with GOTS certified clothing.  It not only thinks about what is actually touching your skin, but it also demonstrates the bigger picture of the apparel industry and the effects that do and have happened without these clear standards being met. 

So next time you decide to purchase some new clothing think about what impact that piece of clothing has had on the rest of the world, not just the environment, but the people who have had a hand in manufacturing it.  Check whether it has a GOTS logo and certification number and if it doesn’t maybe it's time to put these clothes down and start to pick up those that do have the standards that you want your children to grow up in.

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