What is GOTS and Why It Matters?


Terms like “eco-friendly”, “sustainable”, and “organic” are everywhere these days and for good reason—now is the time for us to make the lifestyle changes and consumer choices to support eco-conscious businesses and reduce our environmental impact.  Yet, the more widely these labels are used, the more difficult, if not impossible, it can be to know what they mean for our eco-system, the workers making our products, and the health and well-being of you, the consumer.

This last point is especially crucial when considering textiles like towels and bedding that we and our families use directly on our bodies every day. That’s why we here at Ecoist have teamed-up with The Organic Company, to offer a line of GOTS-certified bath towels, baby blankets, and Waffle Towel bathrobes for kids.

The Organic Company’s rock-solid founding principles are honesty, transparency, and a wish to make a real difference. And that’s where GOTS comes in.

If you’re like us, you’ll be surprised to learn that for textiles to wear the standard “Organic” badge, they only need to be made of 70% organic materials. “Organic” doesn’t account for the rights of workers. And it doesn’t exclude toxins or heavy metals from the manufacturing and dying process, nor the finished product.

GOTS, which stands for Global Organic Textile Standard, certifies for both environmental and social responsibility. And it accounts for the entire supply chain, from raw material to finished product. Unlike ordinary “organic” products, GOTS means that at least 95% of your product’s materials are organic. They also have to be free of toxins and heavy metals. And, equally important for our values, the production process must meet strict international standards for workers’ rights.

Before we dive deeper into the details of what makes GOTS great, it’s important to reflect on the alternative, (cue ominous music) conventional cotton.

Conventional Cotton is an Environmental and Social Disaster

The non-organic cotton industry is a leading source of global environmental pollution and social distress. Conventional cotton uses almost one-quarter of all the world’s insecticides and 10% of pesticides. Social conditions for cotton growers are often exploitative, perpetuating poverty, and causing widespread health problems including various cancers. Unsurmountable debt among farmers from the purchase of expensive pesticides is a contributing factor to the global epidemic of farmer suicides; In India alone, nearly 1000 farmers commit suicide every month. Conventional cotton exposes our environment and our bodies to toxic chemicals used to turn raw material into clothes, towels, bedding, and other items that we put next to our skin every day. 99% of the world’s cotton is conventional.

GOTS certification means that your purchase of GOTS fabrics and garments directly combat all of the above issues created by conventional cotton. To see our line of GOTS certified products click here.

GOTS is in the Details

Certification of the Entire Textile Supply Chain:

  • Fiber producers (farmers) must be certified according to a recognized international or national organic farming standard that is accepted in the country where the final product will be sold.
  • Certifiers of fiber producers must be internationally recognized and accredited.
  • Operators along the entire supply chain, from post-harvest handling up to garment making and traders, have to undergo annual on-site inspections and must hold valid GOTS operational certificates.
  • A textile product carrying the GOTS label grade ‘organic’ must contain a minimum of 95% certified organic fibers whereas a product with the label grade ‘made with organic’ must contain a minimum of 70% certified organic fibers.

Environmental Criteria:

  • At all processing stages, organic fiber products must be separated from conventional fiber products and must be clearly identified
  • All chemical inputs (e.g. dyes, auxiliaries, and process chemicals) must be evaluated and meet basic requirements on toxicity and biodegradability/limitability.
  • Ban on 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 polyester must be post-consumer recycled from 2014 onwards)
  • All operators must have an environmental policy including target goals and procedures to minimize waste and discharges
  • Wet processing units must keep full records of the use of chemicals, energy, water consumption, and wastewater treatment, including the disposal of sludge. The wastewater from all wet-processing units must be treated in a functional wastewater treatment plant.
  • Packaging material must not contain PVC. From 1 January 2014 onwards, any paper or cardboard used in packaging material, hang tags, swing tags, etc. must be post-consumer recycled or certified in accordance with FSC or PEFC

Technical Quality and Human Toxicity Criteria:

  • Technical quality parameters must be met (such as rubbing, perspiration, light and washing fastness and shrinkage values).
  • Raw materials, intermediates, final textile products as well as accessories must meet stringent limits in regard to unwanted residues

Minimum Social Criteria:

All processors and manufacturers must meet minimum social criteria based on the key norms of the International Labor Organization (ILO). They must implement social compliance management with defined elements to ensure that the social criteria can be met. The applicable key conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO) listed must be used as the relevant basis for interpretation for adequate implementation and assessment of the following social criteria topics.

  • Employment is freely chosen
  • C29 - Forced Labor Convention
  • C105 - Abolition of Forced Labor Convention
  • Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are respected
  • C87 - Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention
  • C98 - Right to Organize 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 labor must not be used
  • C138 - Minimum Age Convention
  • C182 - Worst Forms of Child Labor 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 practiced
  • 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 Labor Convention
  • C105 - Abolition of Forced Labor Convention

To learn more about GOTS click here.


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