In this interview, organic textile expert Marcus Bruegel explains the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), its requirements, and why its worth it to seek out products bearing the GOTS label if you are in search of organic textiles.
Q: What does the acronym 'GOTS' stand for?
A: The acronym ‘GOTS’ stands for Global Organic Textile Standard, a textile processing standard that sets comprehensive rules for ecologically and socially responsible textile production.
Q: What does it mean to be certified to GOTS?
A: The GOTS ‘made with organic’ label requires a minimum of 70% certified organic fibers. A maximum of 10% synthetic fibers can be used. Socks, leggings and sportswear can be made from no more than 25% synthetic fibers.
The GOTS ‘organic’ label requires a minimum of 95% certified organic fibers.
Also, a product can only be GOTS certified and labeled as a whole. It is not possible to certify and label only a part or component of a product.
Q: What requirements must GOTS certified textiles meet?
A: GOTS certified products may not contain a blend of the conventional and organic versions of the same raw material in the organic portion of the same product.
All chemical inputs (dyes, auxiliaries and processing chemicals) must be assessed and must meet basic requirements on toxicity and biodegradability/eliminability. Critical inputs that are still widely used in conventional processing (i.e.: toxic heavy metals, formaldehyde, aromatic solvents, and GMOs) are prohibited in GOTS certified products.
There are also restrictions for the use of accessories (e.g. sewing threads, buttons, zippers, etc.). Raw materials, intermediates, final textile products as well as accessories must meet stringent limits regarding unwanted residues. Additionally, packaging material must not contain PVC.
Q: How does GOTS differ from the organic food standard?
A: Producing textiles and garments in an industrial approach is not possible without the use of chemical inputs such as washing agents, softeners, chemical dyestuffs, prints and their helping agents. In its evaluation of these inputs as well as its selection of accepted accessories, GOTS tries to determine the environmental best practices that are still feasible in the market.
The International Working Group, which developed GOTS, also believes that a textile product with an ‘organic’ claim must meet clear standards regarding the working conditions under which it is processed and manufactured. It therefore made meeting these standards mandatory to earn GOTS certification.
Q: Where should you look to find the GOTS label?
A: The GOTS logo must be applied in such a way that it is visible to the buyer / receiver in the textile supply chain and to the end consumer (e.g. use on (final) packaging and/or hangtag and/or a (care) label). The GOTS logo must always be accompanied by a) a reference to the approved certifier (e.g. certifier's name and/or logo) and b) a reference to the last certified entity in the supply chain (e.g. name or licence number). This helps to ensure the integrity of the organic product throughout the supply chain.
Q: What steps can consumers take to ensure that the textiles they are buying are, in fact, organic?
A: The best option is to look for and demand labels like GOTS that define criteria for an organic fiber or textiles claim and assure compliance with these criteria through independent certification throughout the entire textile supply chain.
To learn more about GOTS, read the full interview with Marcus Bruegel.
About Marcus Bruegel
Marcus Bruegel is a leading expert in quality assurance of organic textile production.From 1998 to 2007, he was head of the textile department of the international certification body Institute for Marketecology (IMO) based in Switzerland, where he carried out hundreds of inspections of textile processing companies world-wide and made related certification decisions according to several environmental and social labelling schemes (e.g. GOTS, IVN, Demeter, Coop Switzerland).
With the formation of the International Working Group on Global Organic Textile Standard in 2002, Brugel was assigned to the technical development of the standard and became the first Technical Director of the International Working Group in June 2008. His major tasks in this role have been the further development of the standard and related quality assurance procedures. In coordinating the certifiers council, where all GOTS approved certification bodies participate, his task is to provide interpretation advice in order to achieve worldwide correct and consistent implementation of the standard.
Bruegel serves as technical expert for accreditation bodies (e.g. IOAS), supervising certification bodies that seek accreditation in the textile sector and providing expertise in criteria development of environmentally oriented Textile Trade Fairs and for Quality Assurance Management Systems.