When you go to buy an organic cotton product – you want to know exactly what you’re getting.
There’s one way to do that which is to check it has a specific type of certification i.e. it meets certain criteria for organic fibre.
In this quick guide, we outline how to know if cotton is organic, and what to look for.
How To Know If A Product Is Organic Cotton
If we take textiles and clothes for example when looking for organic cotton products…
- Unlike food, textile products don’t have to be certified in order to be described as organic.
- A product claiming to be organic might only contain a small percentage of organic cotton or may be made of organic cotton but dyed using toxic chemicals which would never be allowed in certified organic products.
- The use of any organic cotton is a great first step, but in order to be sure a product really is organic from field to finished product, look out for either the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) symbol, the Soil Association symbol or the Organic Exchange symbol [on the label of the organic product you are buying, or in the description on the brand’s website]
Of the above symbols, we think GOTS certification is the best symbol to look for.
So, What Is GOTS Certification?
What Is GOTS?
- GOTS is comprised of four reputed member organisations, namely OTA (USA), IVN (Germany), Soil Association (UK) and JOCA (Japan), which contribute to the GOTS, together with further international stakeholder organizations and experts, their respective expertise in organic farming and environmentally and socially responsible textile processing.
What Does GOTS Mean Though?
- In a nutshell, GOTS is ‘the worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibres, including ecological and social criteria, backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain.’
- The aim is to ‘define world-wide recognized requirements that ensure organic status of textiles, from harvesting of the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing up 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 certification accepted in all major markets.’
- The criteria in the standard covers processing, manufacturing, packaging, labelling, trading and distribution of all textiles.
- The criteria has outlines for what the fibre should be made of, as well as environmental, technical quality and human toxicity, and social based criteria that must be met.
- You can read more about it here so you are familiar with GOTS criteria before you buy organic cotton – https://www.global-standard.org/the-standard/general-description.html
Benefits Of GOTS Certification & Organic Cotton In General
GOTS certification has the potential to save the cotton growing and production process from involving a lot of synthetic chemicals (which can have environmental, human and wildlife impacts)
Synthetic pesticides and fertilisers are examples at the growing stage.
Benefits of GOTS in the textile production stage (with minimising synthetic chemical usage) can be read about at https://oecotextiles.wordpress.com/2011/01/19/estimating-the-carbon-footprint-of-a-fabric/
Potential Problem With GOTS Standard/Certified Organic Fibres
Some potential problems with GOTS certification right now might be:
- It takes time to get the certification – each step of the growing and production process has to be checked and certified, along with all facilities
- It takes time and money to convert farms and production facilities already producing conventional cotton
- There can sometimes be more immediate profits to be made and time to be saved by sticking with conventional cotton growing and production
- Labor and other resource inputs can be more intensive with organic or certified fibres
- The organic market for cotton is nowhere near as big as the conventional cotton market yet – it’s still growing and getting established
There are also times (although not sufficiently significant) when GOTS certified cotton has been provided from some countries, and it’s violated criteria requirements – you can read about that here – https://textile-network.com/en/Technical-Textiles/Fasern-Garne/GOTS-Organic-Cotton-from-India-under-fire
The Growth Of GOTS Certified Facilities
GOTS certified facilities are growing worldwide – which points to a small trend that organic cotton is trending up.
You can read more about the growth of GOTS certified facilities at – http://organic-market.info/news-in-brief-and-reports-article/gots-certified-facilities-increase-82-in-2017.html
Other Certifications & Standards For Organic Cotton
Apart from GOTS, be aware of the following labels and organisations …
Soil Association Symbol – Means the product certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard by Soil Association Certification Ltd. The Soil Association was a founder member of GOTS and is a quarter owner of Global Standard GmbH which manages the GOTS.
Organic Exchange Symbol (OE100 symbol) – Cotton in the product grown to organic standards. Product has been tracked and traced along the supply chain by an independent, third party. Contains 100% certified organic cotton fibre, but hasn’t necessarily been processed to organic standards.
OE Blended Symbol – Product contains a minimum 5% of organic cotton fibre.
Companies are increasingly becoming certified to traceability standards such as the Organic Exchange (OE) Blended or OE 100 standard, tracing the organic fiber from the field to finished product. Many manufacturers have also become certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), which addresses textile’s processing stages and includes strong labor provisions.
In the EU, the Council Directive on Organic Farming defines production and certification requirements of organic crops. In the USA and in Asia, the National Organic Program (NOP) and the Japanese Agricultural Standard (JAS) respectively do the same.
The USDA also has definitions and guidelines for organic products in the US.