What does GOTS Certified mean?
The Global Organic Textile Standard, or better known as GOTS, is the worldwide leader on setting the textile processing standard for organic fibers including ecological and social criteria, backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain.
The aim of the standard is to define globally recognized requirements that ensure the organic status of textiles, from the harvesting of raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing all the way to labelling, in order to provide a credible assurance to the end consumer.
Textile processors and manufacturers are enabled to export their organic fabrics and garments with one universal certification accepted in all major markets.
The consensus of the Founding Organizations was that a clear and unambiguous understanding of the content required that the Global Standard itself focuses on compulsory criteria only.
The standard covers the processing, manufacturing, packaging, labelling, trading and distribution of all textiles made from at least 70% certified organic natural fibres.
The final products may include, but are not limited to fibre products, yarns, fabrics, clothes and home textiles. The standard does not set criteria for leather products.
The Key Criteria for Fibre Production:
- Organic certification of fibres on basis of recognised international or national standards (IFOAM family of standards, EEC 834/2007, USDA NOP)
- Certification of fibres from conversion period is possible if the applicable farming standard permits such certification
- 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
The Key Criteria for Processing and Manufacturing:
- At all stages through the processing organic fibre products must be separated from conventional fibre products and must to be clearly identified
- All chemical inputs (e.g. dyes, auxiliaries and process chemicals) must be evaluated and meeting basic requirements on toxicity and biodegradability/eliminability
- Prohibition of critical inputs such as toxic heavy metals, formaldehyde, aromatic solvents, functional nano particles, genetically modified organisms (GMO) and their enzymes
- The use of synthetic sizing agents is restricted; knitting and weaving oils must not contain heavy metals
- Bleaches must be based on oxygen (no chlorine bleaching)
- Azo dyes that release carcinogenic amine compounds are prohibited
- Discharge printing methods using aromatic solvents and plastisol printing methods using phthalates and PVC are prohibited
- Restrictions for accessories (e.g. no PVC, nickel or chrome permitted)
- All operators must have an environmental policy including target goals and procedures to minimise waste and discharges
- Wet processing units must keep full records of the use of chemicals, energy, water consumption and waste water treatment, including the disposal of sludge. The waste water from all wet processing units must be treated in a functional waste water treatment plant.
- 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
The Key Criteria for Human Toxicity and Technical Quality:
- Technical quality parameters must be met (s.a. rubbing, perspiration, light and washing fastness and shrinkage values)
- Raw materials, intermediates, final textile products as well as accessories must meet stringent limits regarding unwanted residues
The Social Criteria:
Social criteria based on the key norms of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) must be met by all processors and manufacturers. They must have a social compliance management with defined elements in place to ensure that the social criteria can be met. For the listed applicable key conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO), adequate implementation and assesment of the social criteria topics have to be taken as the relevant basis for interpretation.
- Employment is freely chosen
- C29 - Forced Labour Convention
- C105 - Abolition of Forced Labour Convention
- Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are respected
- C87 - Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention
- C98 - Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention
- C135 - Workers' Representatives Convention
- C154 - Collective Bargaining Convention
- Working conditions are safe and hygienic
- C155 - Occupational Safety and Health Convention
- Child labour must not be used
- C138 - Minimum Age Convention
- C182 - Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention
- Living wages
- C95 - Protection of Wages Convention
- C131 - Minimum Wage Fixing Convention
- Working hours are not excessive
- C1 - Hours of Work (Industry) Convention
- C14 - Weekly Rest (Industry) Convention
- C30 - Hours of Work (Commerce and Offices) Convention
- C106 - Weekly Rest (Commerce and Offices) Convention
- No discrimination is practised
- C100 - Equal Remuneration Convention
- C111 - Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention
- Regular employment is provided
- C158: Termination of Employment Convention
- C175: Part-time Work Convention
- C177: Homework Convention
- C181 Private Employment Agencies Convention
- Harsh or inhumane treatment is prohibited
- C29 - Forced Labour Convention
- C105 - Abolition of Forced Labour Convention
The Quality Assurance System
Generally a company participating in the GOTS certification scheme must work in compliance with all criteria of the standard. GOTS relies on a dual system to check compliance with the relevant criteria consisting of on-site auditing and residue testing.
Certification of the Entire Textile Supply Chain:
- Fibre producers (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. They also must be accredited to certify according to the applicable fibre standard
- Operators from post-harvest handling up to garment making and traders have to undergo an onsite annual inspection cycle and must hold a valid GOTS scope certificate applicable for the production / trade of the textiles to be certified
- Certifiers of processors, manufacturers and traders must be internationally accredited according to ISO 65/17065 and must hold a ‘GOTS accreditation’ in accordance with the rules as defined in the ‘Approval Procedure and Requirements for Certification Bodies’
- Stringent limit values for unwanted residues are defined in the standard
- Licensed operators must undergo residue testing according to a risk assessment of contamination
- Additional samples may be taken by auditors and sent for analysis to ISO 17025 accredited labs
What Does it Mean to be GOTS Certified?
For starters, if a product or textile claims to be GOTS Certified, it means that they are using a minimum of 95% organic fibres. If it is labeled with “made with organic” it contains a minimum of 70% certified organic fibres.
In short, to be granted the GOTS certification the product or material needs to be produced with fair labor, dyes need to be biodegradable and free of harsh chemicals, must meet high standards for residue testing and must be processed separately from conventionally grown fibers.
In all, GOTS Certification is the #1 most important certification worldwide for any product or textile ensuring the organic status of the product or material. When shopping sustainably for organic products be sure to only buy products with the GOTS Certification label next to it.
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