In this era of climate crisis, more and more people are switching to ethical fashion. This has led several fashion brands to make fake sustainability claims (also known as greenwashing) about their products to gain more customers.
So who is going to ensure that brands make clothing that is actually sustainable? That’s where certifications such as the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) come in. They verify that your clothes are truly sustainable and have been produced with the least amount of impact on the environment.
Let’s learn what the GOTS certification really means. We also have a little treat for you at the end!
What is GOTS?
The GOTS is the world’s leading processing standard for organic textile products. The certification process is fully independent, and the entire textile supply chain - right from the raw materials to the product labeling - needs to meet the criteria in order to be certified by GOTS.
Unlike other certifications, GOTS doesn't just assess the final product. In fact, it certifies individual suppliers and factories, so a brand is allowed to label products with GOTS only when it uses GOTS suppliers end-to-end. This way, the certification process ensures that organic textiles are made with minimal impact on the environment and human rights are respected at each stage.
One of the ways in which they do this is through a stringent chemical management process. It also ensures the safety of the workers who make the products. But it is the product safety that often makes it desired by consumers. So when you buy GOTS certified products, you are contributing towards a lower footprint while also making sure that only the safest products touch your skin.
One of the best things about the GOTS certification is that it guarantees sustainability all the while people in the supply chain are paid a living wage and work in conditions that meet the ILO standards.
Before we look at the criteria, we have to make an important distinction...
What is ‘GOTS Certified Organic Cotton’?
When brands claim that their products are "made with 100% GOTS certified organic cotton", it usually means only their raw material comes from a GOTS certified supplier. The rest of their supply chain may not be GOTS certified. Such clothes made with GOTS organic cotton are not supposed to carry the GOTS label.
On the other hand, when the entire product is GOTS certified, it means the whole supply chain - right from the raw materials to the traders - has been certified by GOTS.
⚠️ We recommend GOTS certified clothes over clothes made with GOTS certified organic cotton.
You can read more about organic clothes (and why they are better for you) here!
A final product can be GOTS certified only if each stage of the process complies with the criteria. All of the criteria are mandatory.
Organic Fiber Production
The scrutiny begins at the farming level. The fibers should have been farmed organically, ensuring a healthy experience both for the environment and for the farmers.
- The raw fibers should be certified as organic according to a recognized international or national standard (eg. the IFOAM Family of Standards, EEC 834/2007, USDA NOP), and should not be genetically modified.
- The organic fibers should always be kept separate from the conventional fibers so as to avoid contamination.
- The product must be made with at least 70% certified organic fibers for it to be eligible for the “made with organic materials” label. In order to be labeled as “organic”, it needs to have a minimum of 95% certified organic fibers.
Processing and Manufacturing
It is impossible to produce textiles without at least some impact on the environment. So GOTS works on minimizing this impact as much as possible.
- All the chemical inputs such as dyes and auxiliaries must be GOTS approved and should be evaluated for toxicity and biodegradability. Only the chemicals that are deemed safe for the environment and human health are approved. Examples include low-impact fiber reactive dyes, and using hydrogen peroxide instead of chlorine for bleaching. It also restricts or prohibits a long list of toxic chemicals that are used conventionally in textile manufacturing.
- All the processing units must have a written environmental policy, and have environmental management systems, such as wastewater treatment. GOTS also places a limit on the amount of residue that is allowed from unintentional contamination.
- The packaging material must not contain PVC. Any paper and cardboard used in packaging (including hang tags) must be pre- or post-consumer recycled, or be certified by FSC or PEFC.
The key norms of the International Labor Organization (ILO) regarding working and social conditions must be met. Some of them include no child labor, healthy working conditions, and no discrimination.
One of the conditions that should be highlighted is their strict policy regarding payment of a livable wage. This should be calculated according to national legal standards, or industry benchmark standards, whichever is higher. The fashion industry is notorious for paying pitiful wages, so this criteria ensures that the workers are paid fairly. All the social criteria should be elaborated clearly, and they must have a social compliance management system in place.
- No stage of the process - such as knitting, weaving, and dyeing - should use any heavy metals.
- For the remaining non-organic part of the product, conventional natural fibers or recycled fibers may be used. Fibers such as virgin polyester are prohibited. So is conventional cotton, because mixing of organic and conventional fibers of the same type is not allowed.
- For accessories such as buttons, zippers, or labels, natural materials or regenerated materials are allowed. Materials such as PVC, carbon, and silver fibers are strictly prohibited.
- For mattresses and bedding products, the latex foam used should be certified organic, or produced using sustainable forestry management principles.
The GOTS certification, therefore, scrutinizes every single input at each stage, making sure that the product you receive is authentically organic. No wonder it is regarded as the highest standard for sustainability.
GOTS might be the most rigorous, but it is not the only certification out there. Let us see how it compares with OEKO-TEX and OCS (Organic Content Standards).
GOTS vs. OEKO-TEX
The most common OEKO-TEX certification is Standard 100. This certification is NOT an eco-label. It simply makes sure that textiles are tested against a long list of harmful substances that can cause damage to our health. Standard 100 labels that the product is safe to wear.
OEKO-TEX is especially useful when we need to purchase delicate clothes that come in direct contact with your skin. Examples: baby clothes, underwear, sleepwear.
Unlike GOTS, OEKO-TEX applies to both natural and synthetic fibers. While GOTS traces the entire processing chain, OEKO-TEX only tests the final products for consumer safety against harmful chemicals. It says nothing about the source materials, the processes, or the labor standards followed.
Moreover, GOTS does not set a standard for leather products, but OEKO-TEX has a leather standard. OEKO-TEX also allows the use of synthetic fertilizers as well as GMO seeds, while GOTS does not.
GOTS vs. OCS
The Organic Content Standard (OCS) is also related to organic materials, but it applies to any non-food products. But the difference is that it only tracks and documents the organic fiber percentage throughout the supply chain. Both GOTS and OCS allow only raw materials from organic-certified farms.
Another major difference is that OCS does NOT cover processing. This means that it does not have any requirements on how the product is made. GOTS, on the other hand, has stringent regulations regarding this.
In order to be certified as OCS, a product needs to have a minimum of 5% organic materials, which is an extremely low threshold percentage when compared to GOTS.
In order to be as safe and environmentally conscious as possible, it would be best to make sure the products you buy are certified by multiple entities.
GOTS Certified Products
Now that you know what the GOTS certification means, we thought the next step should be to compile a list of products that are commonly GOTS certified (and why they are better for you). We even went the extra mile and put together a database of ethical brands that offer such products.
You can shop for all GOTS certified clothing here. For more details on specific products, read below.
GOTS Certified Baby Clothes
Baby clothes have got to be THE number 1 product under GOTS certified clothes, simply because of how safe they are for your baby’s skin. One of the most common fibers used in baby clothes is Organic Cotton. It is hypoallergenic, as soft as feathers, lightweight, and breathable. Since a baby’s skin is very sensitive, with GOTS clothes, you never have to worry about chemicals and toxins touching your baby’s skin. Your baby will be happy while wearing the safest clothes on the planet.
Shop for GOTS certified baby clothes here. If you are from the USA and are looking to purchase locally made products so as to support your local economy, we’ve got you covered, too! Head on over here.
GOTS Certified Pajamas
Let’s admit it. We have all been practically living in our pajamas for the past two years. So why not make sure we are as comfortable as possible? Soft pajamas that make you feel really cozy, AND also keep you safe from toxins? Sounds like a dream, especially if you have sensitive skin! Many of them even come in cute patterns, so you can relax at home while looking fabulous.
GOTS Certified Bed Sheets and Mattresses
We spend approximately one-third of our life sleeping, and even more time lounging around on our beds. So why not make sure our bed feels like our very own personal fluffy cloud? After all, a good night’s sleep can be the difference between a good and bad day. Here are some GOTS certified bedsheets and mattresses for a great sleeping experience. Treat. Your. Self.
The Citizenry. Dreamy bedding collections that come in amazing tones such as midnight and ember. Add a splash of style to your room with these!
Plush Beds. Plush mattresses that you can sink into! Maximum comfort for a night of healthy sleep.
Under The Canopy. Buttery soft bedding in cool colors will have you sleeping in the lap of luxury.
Avocado Green Mattresses. Needle-tufted by hand, these soft mattresses will make you never want to get out of your bed.
Coyuchi Organic Linen Sheets. Sheets that only look and feel luxurious, but also get softer with each wash? Yes, please!