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Industry specific standard: GOTS for sustainable textiles

Posted by Bertrand Duteil on 08/12/2016

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Following our last articles about the most common sustainability standards in different industries such as the food industry with the EU-Organic standard, we will today present you a standard for a sustainable textile industry: the GOTS.

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is an international standard for the manufacture of sustainable products made of natural fibers. The organisation founded in 2016 involves four national member organisations including Germany, England, the USA and Japan.

Basic principles of the GOTS

The standard covers the complete supply chain and stands for an organic production and manufacture of textile products made of fibers such as cotton, animal wool or hemp. The GOTS does not only give a guideline for a sustainable manufacture of natural products but also stands for fair social production conditions. Every producer and manufacturer must follow the social minimum requirements of the UN Agency "International Labour Organization".

In contrast with other standards, the GOTS is not split into product groups but into application areas. Since the standard process starts with the preparation of natural fibers, the organic farms need to prove through other national sustainability standards (such as the EU Organic Regulation) that they follow the requirements necessary for a GOTS certification.

The GOTS organizational structure

The steady development and improvement of the standard is made by the organization along with several stakeholders and organisations such as labor unions or environmental enterprises.

The four founding member organisations working together within the GOTS IWG (International Working Group) and constituting all together the Global Standard GmbH are the following ones:

The different members debate the development of the standard and decide together every underlying question about the GOTS. As part of the umbrella organization, they are also owners of the GOTS labels.

There are several representative cells around the world (among other USA/Canada, Japan, Germany, China, Bangladesh) working together as a network. Their work is completed with a technical committee responsible for the quality management and supervising the certification bodies.

The GOTS Certification

The GOTS certification requires the use of a minimum of 70% of sustainable natural fibers. Every company along the supply chain producing, trading or working with any form of textile can apply for this certification. Control and monitoring are operated from the first production step on and all along the production and supply chain by one of the 18 certification bodies present around the globe. To label a final product with the GOTS label, every step of the production must be certified as well. To guarantee a complete traceability of a sustainable end product, a certification duty exists for the trade of ready-made products, since wholesalers play an increasingly more important role within the supply chain.

A certification can be operated in the four following application areas:

  • Certification of mechanic textile manufactures and ready-made clothing companies and their products
  • Certification of wet processing and equipment companies and their products
  • Certification of the trade companies and their products
  • Approval of positive list of textile auxiliary agents (colorant and auxiliary supplies) for the supplying industry

Process of certification

Every certification starts with an on-site inspection of the certifying company and a control of the different requirements set by the type of certification being passed. For example, during the production of textiles, the use of genetically modified materials is strictly forbidden and the use of different auxiliary agents used such as colorant must be controlled and limited to the authorized auxiliary agents lists.

To guarantee the compliance with each criteria, a protocol is set up by the certifying body. It must cover different aspects of the product preparation such as the control of the textile auxiliary agents used, an insight in the accounting, an evaluation of the production and storage processes and a monitoring of the social criteria.

Once the certification has been successfully passed, the GOTS certificate with a validity of one year will be issued and delivered to the company.

The GOTS Label

When every steps of the supply chain has been controlled and each member of the supply chain GOTS certified, the end product has the possibility to display the GOTS label. This label can only be used when the last company in the supply chain, most of the time the wholesaler or the retailer, also have their GOTS certification, as the last certifying step and last certifying body must also be displayed on the product itself.

Further information

 

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