What is the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)?
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is an international standard related to the textile production and the use of organic materials. It ensures that the entire supply chain operates in an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible manner, from the production of raw materials to distribution.
What is organic textile
By organic textile products we mean products that contain natural fibers (cotton, linen, hemp, silk, etc.) whose cultivation follows the principles of Organic Agriculture, i.e. without using synthetic chemical pesticides or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
According to the GOTS, organic fabrics are materials:
that are produced in suitable working conditions
that contain at least 70% of organic fibres
which production pays great attention to natural and synthetic chemicals
which processing produces the least possible damage to the environment
History of the Gots
In 2002, representatives of organic cotton producers, textile industry, consumers, standards and certification bodies attended the 2002 Intercot Conference in Düsseldorf, Germany. During the event, they expressed the need to have internationally homogeneous legislation relating to organic textiles.
At the time, the organic fabric market was still a niche and the numerous certification standards made international trade and their recognition difficult.
Therefore, since 2002 organizations and experts had been working to harmonize the legislation, and in 2006 the Global Organic Textile Standard was established. It rapidly became the leading standard for processing organic textiles.
Then, in 2008, under the pressing demand of retailers, an official label was created and nowadays textile manufacturers can apply it to their products to demonstrate their compliance with the GOTS.
Objectives of the Gots
The Global Organic Textile Standard serves to ensure responsible and sustainable development in the textile sector. In fact, the textile industry requires a massive use of water, natural resources, pesticides, insecticides and other chemicals. In addition, it produces pollution of water, air and land, a large amount of waste and is often based on unfair labor policies.
However, this kind of production is no longer sustainable, nor even ethical. That’s why the Global Organic Textile Standard imposes different regulations to the whole supply chain of textile and fashion companies.
These regulations mainly concern the environmental impact, working conditions and the use of biological resources.
Companies that join the GOTS must meet the following criteria.
Gots environmental criteria
- they cannot use toxic heavy metals, formaldehyde, aromatic solvents, functional nano-particles, OMG, chlorine-based whiteners, azo dyes
- must separate organic materials from conventional fibers throughout the production process
- must adopt an environmental protection policy and procedures that reduce consumption and discharges to a minimum
- they must engage in water treatment by equipping themselves with purification plants
Gots health criteria
Their raw materials, semi-finished and final textile products cannot contain toxic or harmful substances.
Gots social criteria
- they must comply with the fundamental standards of the International Labor Organization
- must ensure safe and hygienic working conditions
- refuse child labor
- guarantee workers adequate wages, regular contracts and decent living conditions
- do not impose excessive working hours
- undertake to eliminate discrimination and abuse
Although GOTS implies strict constraints, it does not conflict with mass and series production.
Furthermore, it is not a once-and-for-all standard. On the contrary, it is constantly evolving according to technological and market developments. In any case, the goal is always the same: to aim for a sustainable and ethical textile industry.
The Global Organic Textile Standard Certification
GOTS certification involves a series of steps.
First, the company that wants to obtain GOTS certification must organize itself to meet the requirements. Then, it can submit a specific application.
Subsequently, an independent certified body verifies the suitability of products and production process. If successful, it issues the certificate.
There are two types of certification:
1. Scope Certificates (SCs)
The supplier meets all the criteria to be able to process GOTS goods;
2. Transaction Certificates (TCs)
The goods themselves meet all GOTS product criteria
But the GOTS quality system doesn't stop there. The certified bodies carry out an annual inspection to verify that the production units, warehousing and product distribution centers are still compliant.
Advantages of the Gots
A 2021 survey from Simon-Kucher & Partners shows that 60% of customers consider sustainability an important purchase criterion.
Moreover, most of these customers are open to the idea of spending more for having sustainable products.
This means that companies that can respond quickly to this request will have a huge competitive advantage.
Unfortunately, shoppers don’t trust fashion brands’ sustainability claims anymore.
And this is where transparency becomes key to generating trust.
Fortunately, textile and fashion companies can count on many tools to succeed: from blockchain to certifications by third parties.