Summary

The aim of the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is to define requirements to ensure the organic status of textiles. In order to provide credible assurance to the end consumer, the standard follows harvesting of raw materials through to environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing and labeling. At least 70% of the fibres used in a GOTS certified product must be natural and grown in an organic way, as well as certified to one of the following farming and production standards: EC-Regulation 834/2007, NOP regulations or any (other) standard approved in the IFOAM Family of Standards.

Governance

The GOTS standard can be considered a combination of industry and multi-stakeholder standards. It was developed by the “Global Organic Textile Standard International Working Group”, composed of four non-governmental organisations, for the promotion of organic production. The GOTS standard was created as an initiative to develop a harmonised globally recognised standard for the production of organic textiles.

The four initiating parties were the International Association Natural Textile Industry (IVN), the Soil Association, the Organic Trade Association and the Japan Organic Cotton Association, who agreed on a first version of the standard at the beginning of 2005. The working group cooperated closely with International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), an authority on organic agriculture, in the standard-setting process.

Scope

In principle, any product that can be considered a textile fibre product is covered under the scope of this standard. The standard does not cover products made from non-fibre materials such as leather, skin, hide or rubber.

A product can only be certified and labeled (‘organic’ or ‘made with organic’) as a whole. It is not possible to certify and label only a part or a component of a product.

This standard covers the processing, manufacturing, packaging, labeling, 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. Textiles containing electronic components and furniture are not covered.

Market Acceptance

The GOTS standard is present in 62 countries around the world. The top 20 countries, as of date of this publication and based on the number of GOTS-certified facilities, are (in order of ranking): India, Turkey, Germany, China, South Korea, Italy, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Japan, Portugal, France, United Kingdom, USA, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands, Greece, Denmark, Belgium and Sri Lanka.

The GOTS standard has a broad segment, which includes: accessories, babywear, children’s wear, fabrics, garments, home textiles, hygiene products, ladies wear, leisurewear, menswear, non-wovens, raw fibres, socks, sportswear, technical textiles, underwear and yarns.

Companies certified to GOTS can be found at http://www.global-standard.org/public-database/search.html.

According to the GOTS IWG public database of facilities certified by GOTS, launched in early 2014, 1783 companies with a total of 3085 facilities were certified to the organic apparel and textile standard by the end of 2013.

Criteria

Energy Consumption

GOTS requires that processors/manufacturers report data on energy consumption per kg. of textile output and that they set target goals and procedures to reduce energy consumption per kg. of textile output (GOTS, 2.4.10).

Water Consumption

GOTS requires that processors/manufacturers report data on water consumption per kg. of textile output and that they set target goals and procedures to reduce water consumption per kg. of textile output (GOTS, 2.4.10).

Water Emissions

GOTS requires all water emissions from wet processing sites to be treated by an internal or external fully functional wastewater treatment plant before being discharged to surface waters. The treatment plant(s) should measure and monitor sediment, temperature and pH value. Wastewater analyses must be performed and documented periodically.

Chemicals (Accepted/Restricted)

All chemical inputs (e.g. dyes, auxiliaries and process chemicals) must be evaluated and must meet basic requirements on toxicity and biodegradability/eliminability. The basis for assessment is the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). Further sources of information are e.g. test reports, independent lab analysis and traceability checks of ingredients.

Key criteria of the GOTS include:

  • Prohibition of critical inputs such as, but not limited to: toxic heavy metals, formaldehyde, aromatic solvents, functional nano-particles, PFOS, PFOA, organotin compounds, all APEOs, NTA, plasticizers, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and their enzymes, as well as functional nano-particles. This applies for both organic fibres and non-organic fibres present in the product;
  • Synthetic sizing agents can only be used for 25% of the total sizing and must adhere to the general chemical input requirements. In case such synthetic sizes are recycled/recovered in the wastewater from desizing process with a ratio >80% they may be used without limitation in the total sizing. Knitting/weaving oils must not contain heavy metals. Other inputs used at this stage must be derived from natural materials only; and
  • Bleaches must be based on oxygen; chlorine bleaching is not permitted; Azo dyes that release carcinogenic amine compounds are prohibited; all printing methods using aromatic solvents, phthalates and PVC are prohibited.
Chemicals (Chemical Management)

GOTS requires that wet processing units must keep full records of the use of chemicals (2.4.10). Further, the certifier needs to be able to see purchase, stock and processing records (s.a. recipes) to be able to verify if indeed only approved chemical inputs have been used.

Chemicals (Consumer Safety)

As GOTS certification controls all inputs, it can be assumed that no harmful residues are left in the final textile. However, GOTS also sets residue limits considering human toxicity for the consumer in chapter 2.4.15 and 2.4.16.

Air Emissions

All companies must assure compliance with the applicable national and local legal environmental requirements applicable to their processing/manufacturing stages performed including those referring to air emissions (2.4.10).

Occupational Health and Safety

Working conditions must be safe and a hygienic working environment provided, bearing in mind the prevailing knowledge of the industry and any specific hazards, for example:

  • Adequate steps must be taken to prevent accidents and injury to health arising from the causes of hazards inherent in the working environment;
  • Garment finishing methods that are considered to be harmful to the workers (such as sand blasting of denim) are prohibited;
  • Workers must receive regular and recorded health and safety training and such training must be repeated for new or reassigned workers;
  • Access to clean toilet facilities and to drinkable water and, if appropriate, to rest areas; food consuming areas and sanitary facilities for food storage must be provided;
  • When handling chemicals, the corresponding MSDS must be available and applicable health and safety measures implemented; and
  • Accommodation, where provided, must be clean, safe, and meet the basic needs of the workers. The company observing the code must assign responsibility for health and safety to a senior management representative;

The GOTS approved certifiers active in developing countries (e.g. Control Union Certifications (CUC) and the Institute for Marketecology (IMO)) apply checklists with detailed questions to assess this aspect.

Additional Criteria

Record Keeping

GOTS stipulates that all operational procedures and practices must be supported by documented control systems and records that allow tracing the origin, nature and quantities of organic products which have been delivered to the unit and those GOTS Goods which have left the unit.

Certified entities purchasing GOTS goods must receive and maintain GOTS transaction certificates issued by an approved certifier (see 4,a,iii) for the whole quantity of GOTS goods purchased.

Wet processing units must keep full records of the use of chemical, energy, water consumption and wastewater treatment including the disposal of sludge.

Transport means and routes must be documented.

Management Responsibilities/Roles

GOTS requires manufacturers to assign an employee who will be in charge of one stage of the process; for example, in case of the Social Compliance Management, the operator should nominate a responsible person for social accountability.

Trainings

GOTS, as a standard for certification, does not offer training to manufacturers. Manufacturers need to comply with the criteria. This includes requirements that the environmental management policy should include “documentation of staff training in the conservation of water and energy, the proper and minimal use of chemicals and their correct disposal” (section 2.4.10) and that
“Workers must receive regular and recorded health and safety training, and such training must be repeated for new or reassigned workers.” (section 3.4).

Environmental Policy

According to GOTS requirements, operators must have a written environmental policy and procedures in place to allow monitoring and improving relevant environmental performances in their facilities.

Depending on the processing stages performed, the policy should include:

  • Person responsible;
  • Data on energy and water resources and their consumption per kg. of textile output;
  • Target goals and procedures to reduce energy and water consumption per kg. of textile output;
  • The monitoring of waste and discharges;
  • Procedures to minimise waste and discharges;
  • Procedures to follow in case of waste and pollution incidents;
  • Documentation of staff training in the conservation of water and energy, the proper and minimal use of chemicals and their correct disposal; and
  • Programme for improvement.
Social Responsibility

The GOTS standard lays down minimum social criteria which apply to all textile processing, manufacturing and trading stages. The criteria are in line with the International Labour Organization (ILO) principles/conventions.

The criteria include the following:

  • Employment is freely chosen;
  • Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are respected;
  • Working conditions are safe and hygienic;
  • Child labour must not be used;
  • Legal minimum, or industry benchmark wages are paid, whichever is higher. These should comply with living wages;
  • Working hours are not excessive;
  • No discrimination is practiced;
  • Regular employment is provided; and
  • Harsh or inhumane treatment is prohibited.

Additionally, there must be a form of social compliance management. This information must be available to workers in the applicable local language(s).

Storage, Packaging and Transport

Organic textile products must be stored and transported in such a manner that prevents contamination by prohibited substances and commingling with conventional products or substitution of the contents.

GOTS requires packaging materials to be PVC-free.

Other Materials

All natural materials including biological material (such as natural fibre, wood, leather, horn, bone, stone, and shell) and inorganic material (such as minerals and metals) are allowed. Any polyester used must be made from pre- or post-consumer recycled material (except for accessories).

Materials made of chrome and nickel (components of metal), from threatened animals, plants or timber or made of PVC are prohibited. The use of silver and carbon fibres is also prohibited.

Any paper or cardboard used in packaging material for the retail trade of GOTS Goods must be post-consumer recycled or certified according to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

Certification

On Site Audits or Desktop Review

An onsite inspection visit to the factory is obligatory for every certification.

Unannounced Inspections/Other Inspections

GOTS states that processors, manufacturers and traders of GOTS goods which undergo an on-site annual inspection may also have an additional unannounced inspection based on a risk assessment of their operations.

Process

There are 17 (at date of publication) approved certification bodies for the Global Organic Textile Standard including the Institute for Marketecology (IMO), Control Union Certification, Soil Association Certification (UK), Oregon Tilth (USA), etc.

GOTS cer­ti­fiers need to have an internationally acc­re­di­ted product certification (ISO 17065:2012) as a prerequisite to be able to apply for accreditation as a GOTS approved certification body. The GOTS accreditation procedure is performed by IOAS (International Organic Accreditation Service) or another approved accreditation body on basis of the ‘Approval Procedure and Requirements for Certification Bodies’. Finally, the certifier needs approval by the In­ter­na­tio­nal Wor­king Group.

The certifying body provides information on the application and auditing procedure. It starts with the preparation of documents: the applying company provides all of the necessary documents and information about its current operating structure (e.g. article lists, technical procedure sheets, recipes/safety data sheets, packaging samples, etc.).

This is followed by an inspection visit to the factory which is obligatory for every certification.

Certification is based on the inspector’s report, which is signed by the applying company. A certification committee then decides whether there is any need for corrective actions. The company is notified of any conditions that are imposed and of the deadlines for compliance to these conditions to remedy any problems.

Companies that successfully pass the audit receive a certificate of compliance (scope certificate) by the certification body listing the products/product categories that they can offer in compliance with the standard as well as the processing, manufacturing and trading activities qualified under the scope of certification.

The certificate must be renewed every year, via a follow-up inspection.

Timing

Complete inspections generally take place once a year and around one-two days, though initial inspections generally take longer than follow-up inspections.

Audit Team

The audit process is conducted by professional inspectors from one of the independent, accredited certification bodies.

Audit Frequency

Annual on-site inspection of the processor’s, manufacturer’s or trader’s premises performed by independent accredited certification bodies is the basis for GOTS certification.

Certification and License Fee

Certification fees vary depending on location, size and type of the operation and the range of products processed or traded.

In addition to the certification cost payable to the certifier, each certified entity must pay a license fee for each calendar year. The license fee, at the time of publishing set at 120 Euro for each facility that is inspected for the certified entity, is collected by the approved certifier and transferred to the International Working Group.

Certificate Sample

Templates and policies for issuing certificates of compliance and transaction certificates are provided on the GOTS website http://www.global-standard.org/certification/certificatetemplates.html

Implementation Tools

Tools

The standard offers reference documents that provide binding provisions and requirements for approved certifiers and users of the GOTS such as:

The GOTS standard also provides an online public database that enables its users to search for GOTS certified entities in the supply chain, their location, fields of operation and GOTS certified products according to individual parameters.

Labeling

Process

The GOTS stan­dard allows two label-grades depending on the minimum percentage of ‘organic’ or ‘organic ‑ in conversion’ material in the final product. This dual system allows the threshold to be lowered for brands or factories that want to start with a more environmentally friendly production.

Final products that have been produced and manufactured in compliance with all compulsory criteria of these standards may be labeled as:

  • “organic” or “organic ‑ in conversion”
  • “made with x % organic materials” or “made with x % organic – in conversion materials”

The two grades, or threshold limits, of ‘organic’ or ‘in conversion’ status fibres are 95% and 70% respectively.  The remaining balance (up to 5% and 30% respectively) may be made up of any non-GMO vegetable fibres – except conventional cotton -, animal fibres – except conventional angora wool – or defined synthetic fibres (chapter 2.4.9).  Blending conventional fibres of the same raw material used in organic quality in the same product is not permitted.

Applicability

The labeling must include a reference to the approved certifier who has certified the GOTS goods (certifier’s name and/or logo) and the license number of the certified entity.

An approved certifier must have reviewed and approved the intended labeling in advance of its application. Where the GOTS logo is used, its application must be in compliance with the ‘Licensing and Labeling Guide’.

In all cases, the GOTS labeling can only be physically applied by a certified entity.

Fee

The label/logo fee is included in the License Fee (see part 4.c).

Note: the use of the GOTS logo is specified in the ‘GOTS Licensing and Labeling Guide’.

Graphic Example

gots_graphic_example

Appendix

Contact Information

No address or telephone numbers are specified, but instead an email address, where it is stated that a representative will address any question and/or request.

Email:
mail@global-standard.org

Further interested parties can directly approach the applicable GOTS Regional Representatives through e-mail as introduced on the page:
http://www.global-standard.org/about-us/regional-representatives.html

GOTS provides a list of approved certifiers: organisations/institutions per country which are authorised representatives for GOTS certification.

Link:  http://www.global-standard.org/certification/approved-certification-bodies.html

Bibliography

http://www.global-standard.org/

http://www.global-standard.org/images/GOTS_Version4-01March2014.pdf (Full standard, version 4)

http://www.global-standard.org/images/List_of_relevant_changes-GOTS_V4.pdf (Changes from version 3 to version 4)

http://www.global-standard.org/images/GOTS_Manual-01March2014.pdf (Manual for the implementation of the Global Organic Textile Standard)