GLOBAL ORGANIC TEXTILE STANDARD

ECOLOGY & SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

Questions & Answers

Becoming Certified

Who can apply for GOTS certification?

Textile processing, manufacturing and trading entities can apply for certification according to the Global Organic Textile Standard. Farming projects that want to produce organic fibre cannot apply for GOTS certification, but for certification according to organic farming standards (i.e the USDA NOP or the EEC 834/2007).

How to apply for GOTS certification?

The initial request and application for GOTS certification must be addressed to a GOTS Approved Certification Body. Approved certifiers are assigned with implementing the GOTS quality assurance system and will be able to answer individual questions related to the inspection and certification procedure.

Contact information for all GOTS approved certifiers, their local representatives, a list of countries where they currently have certified clients in, as well as their accredited scopes, are listed here. Applicants are free to select any of those according to their preference.

What is the basis for the GOTS certification?

The basis for GOTS certification:

  • Annual on-site inspection of premises of the processor, manufacturer or trader, performed by an independent and specially accredited certification body.
  • Tracing the organic fibre product flow.
  • Assessment of all the inputs and accessories used.
  • Verification of the wastewater treatment system as part of the environmental management programme.
  • Monitoring social criteria and implementing a risk assessment based quality and residue policy are key elements of the inspection protocol.

The certification of traders is mainly based on the verification of their product flow documentation. The inspection protocol includes a reconciliation of purchases and sales volumes of organic textiles (volume reconciliation calculation). It also allows to trace back to check whether all the purchased products with a claim to being GOTS certified were correctly certified.

What are the main requirements for the production of GOTS compliant products?
  • Comply with the GOTS social criteria based on the key norms of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
  • Provide a written environmental policy. Depending on the processing stages performed, the policy should, for instance, include procedures to monitor and minimise waste and discharges and a programme for reducing these.
  • Wet processing units must keep full and comprehensive records of the use of chemicals, energy, water consumption and wastewater treatment, including the disposal of sludge.
  • Wastewater from all wet processing sites must be treated in either an internal or external functional wastewater treatment plant before being discharged to surface waters.
What is the cost of certification?

The certification costs very much depend on (number of) location(s), size and type of the entity and the range of products that are intended to be processed or traded under the scope of certification. As a rough estimation, entities with one facility can expect an annual certification cost ranging between 1.200 and 3.000 Euro. The Approved Certification Bodies will be pleased to inform applicants about the data they need to provide in order to receive an individual estimate.

In addition to the certification cost payable to the certifier, each certified entity must pay a licence fee for each calendar year. The licence fee is set at 150 Euro for each facility which is inspected for the certified entity. It will be collected by the approved certifier and transferred to GOTS.

What can entities use their GOTS certification for?

Processors and manufacturers that receive a GOTS Certificate of Compliance (=Scope Certificate) are authorised to accept orders for GOTS compliant processing/manufacturing in their certified scope. Certified importers and exporters, as well as other traders, are authorised to trade in GOTS textile products within the scope of their certification. Entities that receive a GOTS Scope Certificate are free to advertise their certified status on the market. They are also listed in the GOTS Certified Suppliers Database.

Why do traders that do not modify or add anything to the product need to become certified?

Although traders do not modify goods, they buy and sell certified products and represent a crucial link for safeguarding transparency and traceability in the value chain. The certification of traders is based on verifying their product flow documentation. The inspection protocol includes reconciliation on the purchase and sales volumes of organic textiles (mass balance calculation) and tracing back whether all the purchased products with GOTS certification claim were, indeed, correctly certified. Without certification of trade entities, it would not be possible to account for independent and gapless verification of a traceable, as well as comprehensive certified product flow.

The certification requirement for traders also ensures that they are aware of the documentation required to verify the authenticity of GOTS certified products and, thus, helps to ensure the integrity of GOTS goods.

How can I verify someone's claim to be GOTS certified?
  1. Look for entries in the certified suppliers database, which contains all GOTS certified entities as reported by GOTS approved certifiers.
    (While we strive to keep our database up to date, entries to the database cannot be used as a definitive verification. To receive appropriate proof of the certified status of a company e.g. as a potential supplier of GOTS certified products check the copy of the Scope Certificate, available on the company’s database entry.)
  2. Companies claiming to be GOTS certified can also be requested to provide their GOTS Scope Certificates. This certificate must have been issued by a GOTS Approved Certifier and has to show (among other information) the company's contact details, as well as the scope of its GOTS certification.
  3. In case of doubt of the authenticity of the certificate, one can – in the last instance – seek confirmation of this through the certificate number by the approved certifier who issued the certification.

Product Certification

How can consumers identify a correctly GOTS certified and labelled product?

Consumers should look for the on-product labelling. GOTS labelling must be applied on the product in such a way that it is visible to the consumer at the time of purchase (e.g. on the packaging and/or hangtag and/or a label).

GOTS Logo example organic

Correct and complete GOTS labelling shows the trademark-registered GOTS logo (or the lettering ‘Global Organic Textile Standard’), the GOTS label grade (‘organic’ or ‘made with organic’), details of the certification body and the licence number and/or name of the certified entity. As retailers are not obliged to be certified themselves, the labelling may show the licence number and/or name of their supplier (trader, manufacturer) of the final product. Consumers can look up the data set of the certified entity by entering the licence number (or name), provided on the GOTS labelling in the ‘free text field’ of our certified suppliers database.

Only correct GOTS labelling provides assurance to consumers that the final product is GOTS certified.

It should be noted that products identified, advertised or offered for sale without this labelling, but with other references to GOTS (certification), may not indicate GOTS certification of the final product. The GOTS labelling conditions do not permit use of the GOTS label (or reference to GOTS certification) on the garment/final textile product, if the GOTS certification is merely valid for intermediate products/steps (such as yarn or fabric) only. It is a precondition for on-product label use that the whole value chain and the final product is certified. Claims on textile products, such as ‘this garment is made from GOTS certified cotton or yarn or fabric’, are claims made by the seller and are not verified or verifiable through the GOTS certification process.

How can a commercial buyer ensure that products purchased are actually GOTS certified?

Companies permitted to market their textile products as GOTS certified will have received a GOTS Scope Certificate and can be requested to provide an (electronic) copy of their certification. This certificate will have been issued by a GOTS approved certifier and states that the company is GOTS certified. Hence, it is able to process/market the listed products (or product categories) under GOTS certification. However, this does not prove that all of GOTS certified entities‘ products are GOTS certified. In case of doubt about the authenticity of the Scope Certificate, buyers can check it within the certified suppliers database of certified companies and in last instance, the certification status may be confirmed by contacting the issuing approved certifier.

In order to assure that a specific shipment of products received from a certified supplier is GOTS certified, the supplier can be requested to provide a 'Transaction Certificate' (TC), issued by the GOTS certifier of the supplier. The said file lists the specific products and shipment details, including the buyer`s name, address and caters to confirm the GOTS certification status. Commercial buyers may decide to make the issuance of TCs for each purchase of GOTS certified textile products a contractual condition to each supplier they want to work with in this field. In case of doubt about the authenticity of a TC, the buyer can request that the entity’s certifier verifies its validity.

Must GOTS certified products be certified at all stages of the supply chain?

As a principle, all operators of the processing and manufacturing chain, as well as B2B traders, must be GOTS certified as a prerequisite that a final product can be sold, labelled or represented as GOTS certified. Details can be found under Who needs to be certified.

What kind of products can become GOTS certified?

In principle, any organic textile product can be GOTS certified. Only complete/finished products can be certified and labelled with one of the two GOTS labels ('organic' or 'made with organic'). Textile fibre components of a consumer product, which is not normally classified as a textile fibre product (such as prams with textile fabrics, bassinets, car seats or furniture with textile fabric upholstery), may also be certified and labelled as a "Combined Product". It is not possible to certify and label a part or component of a product.

What are the product requirements with regard to fibre composition?

A minimum of 70% of the fibre material used must be certified organic in order to achieve GOTS certification. The product may not contain any conventional fibres of the same organic raw material contained in the product (i.e., no blending), but may contain other fibres (natural or synthetic) not of organic origin. The GOTS label grade ‘made with organic’ requires a minimum of 70% certified organic fibres. The GOTS label grade ‘organic’ requires a minimum of 95% certified organic fibres.

What are the main product requirements with regard to (wet) processing and manufacturing?

All chemical inputs (such as dyes, auxiliaries and process chemicals) are assessed and must meet basic requirements on toxicity and biodegradability/eliminability. The use of toxic heavy metals, formaldehyde, aromatic solvents and genetically modified organisms (GMO) is banned. There are also restrictions on the use of accessories. Raw materials, intermediates, final textile products and accessories must meet stringent limits regarding unwanted residues. Packaging material must not contain PVC.

Why does GOTS prohibit the use of auxiliaries that contain genetically modified organisms (GMO) or their enzymes?

The question of whether enzymes derived from GMOs should be accepted under GOTS was addressed and extensively discussed when preparing GOTS Version 4.0. Finally, GOTS decided that the use of genetically modified organisms - including their enzymes - is incompatible with the production of textiles certified as organic or 'made with organic'. While GOTS acknowledges that there are applications based on GM technologies that result in a reduction of energy, as well as water use and replace the chemicals used in some conventional textile processes, this is only one side of the coin.

Many organisations and individuals have severe concerns about the use of genetic engineering, given the problems that have already arisen, the environmental risks and uncertainty surrounding their continued use, as well as ethical reservations and concerns about business principles. 'GMO-free' remains a principle of any credible organic agricultural and food standard, as reflected by all organic regulations worldwide.

There is hardly any popular and worldwide applied textile standard besides GOTS addressing this issue. Many consumers have deep concerns about genetically modified organisms. GOTS acknowledges these concerns and thinks that they should be respected by offering certified organic textiles produced without the use of GM technology. Consumers should be given a choice to decide for themselves whether they wish to purchase a textile product made without using any GM derived inputs.

In this sense, GOTS encourages the enzyme industry to respect these concerns about a controversial and much-discussed technology and to continue to offer natural enzymes for use in the textile industry.

Why does GOTS prohibit the use of auxiliaries that are based on functional nano-particles?

Auxiliaries based on nano-particles of an extremely small size are one of several novel materials about which science does not yet have sufficient information about their long term effects. In the textile sector, auxiliaries based on nano silver particles are already applied in finishing (for their anti-microbial properties). Yet basic questions that have not yet been answered are: where do/can nano particles go to and what (long term) effects might they cause (on the human body and the environment)? Similarly, nano particles penetrate organs and tissues in the body that larger particles cannot reach, such as the brain, lungs, and testes. In the case of nano-silver and other finishing applications that are sprayed with pesticides and can have potentially devastating effects, we clearly need to act with caution. Accordingly, we have concluded that a general prohibition is scientifically justifiable within a standard such as GOTS that is committed to promoting environmental sustainability and human health.

Labelling and Logo Use

What prerequisites do retailers need to fulfil to be allowed to use the GOTS logo or any reference to GOTS certification on/with regard to certified final textiles?

Before offering for sale and selling GOTS certified and labelled final products to the end consumer, the retailer must ensure that:

  • Its supplier holds a valid Scope Certificate, issued by an approved certifier and covering the goods sold:
    • If the retailer also has B2B trade activity (e.g. sales to other retailers) and/or (re)packs or (re)labels the GOTS goods, the retailer has to be certified. The same conditions for the certification of traders, as detailed below, apply.
    • If the retailer does not have a B2B trade activity and does not (re)pack or (re)label the GOTS goods, the retailer is exempt from the certification obligation.

  • The product is properly labelled (GOTS logo), said labelling contains a reference (name and/or reference number) to the manufacturer, as well as to its approved certifier and has been released by this approved certifier. The retailer is strongly advised to (contractually) request a “Transaction Certificate“ issued by the respective GOTS approved certifier, from his supplier for each shipment, as proof that the goods are properly GOTS certified.
What prerequisites do traders need to fulfil to be allowed to use the GOTS logo or any reference to GOTS certification on/with regard to certified (semi-) finished textiles?

Before selling GOTS certified and labelled (semi-)finished products within the textile supply chain, the trader must ensure that:

  • The trader holds a valid Scope Certificate from an approved certifier. This requirement is valid for traders with a B2B trade activity (e.g. for importers, exporters and wholesalers). Only traders, who have an annual turnover of less than 20.000€ in GOTS goods and who do not (re)pack or (re)label them are exempt from the certification obligation. However, they must register with an approved certifier and must inform them immediately if their annual turnover from GOTS goods exceeds 20.000€.
  • The intended use of the GOTS logo or other reference has been permitted by the approved certifier.
  • Full records are maintained for each client that receives GOTS goods, including lists of all products, their specifications and quantities.
What prerequisites do processors and manufacturers need to fulfil to be allowed to use the GOTS logo or any reference to GOTS certification on certified intermediate textiles?

Before selling GOTS certified and labelled (intermediate) textiles within the supply chain, processors and manufacturers must ensure that:

  • They hold a valid Scope Certificate from an approved certifier covering such goods.
  • The intended use of the GOTS logo, or other reference to GOTS certification, has been permitted by the approved certifier. 
  • Maintain full records of each client that receives GOTS goods, including lists of all products, their specifications, and quantities.

Brand holders or retailers that are not obliged to participate in the GOTS certification system can ask their certified supplier to apply the GOTS logo in a prescibed manner (art work) provided all GOTS labelling requirements, as stipulated in the GOTS Labelling Guide, are met. In this case the labelling would be under the supervision of the supplier’s GOTS approved certifier and the supplier's reference (e.g. license number) would appear on the labelling. Alternatively, brand holders or retailers that are not obliged to participate in the GOTS certification system may apply for certification on a voluntary basis. In this case, they can apply the logo on their own under supervision of their GOTS certifier. Thus, their own reference (e.g. licence number) will appear on the labelling. Under all circumstances, only a GOTS certified entity may apply GOTS labelling to a product.

What do promotional traders have to consider when selling and/or printing on GOTS certified products?

If GOTS certified final products are processed by adding prints, embroidery etc., the trader must be certified in order to be allowed to use GOTS labelling and/or any references to GOTS certification, otherwise the certified value chain would be interrupted. It is irrelevant whether the products are sold B2C or B2B or if some of the certified products are sold without any prints or embroidery. The GOTS organisation takes legal action against non-certified companies that, for example, print on certified textiles and sell the products as GOTS certified.

What is the cost for the use of the GOTS logo?

In addition to the certification cost, each certified entity must pay a licence fee for each calendar year. The licence fee is set at 150 Euro for each facility that is inspected for the certified entity. The fee is collected by the approved certifier and, then, transferred to the GOTS organisation. This fee also covers the right to use the GOTS logo on certified textile products in conjunction with the licencing and application criteria, as detailed in the Licensing and Labelling Guide. For the time being, there is no extra (turnover based) fee. Traders, brand holders and/or retailers or traders that are exempt from the GOTS certification requirement do not need to pay a licence fee.

Can the GOTS logo be used for the purpose of writing an article?

Stakeholders, NGOs, media and other parties that distribute independent (consumer or industry) information can use the GOTS logo in conjunction with accurate statements about GOTS and its quality assurance system. They can obtain a high resolution logo by sending a request indicating the purpose of the logo use by email to .

Miscellaneous

Does GOTS comply with EN ISO 14024:2000 and, thus, with the requirements for a Type I environmental labelling?

Yes, GOTS meets the requirements for the existing environmental labelling "Type I". The standard series ISO 14020 regulates the contents and realisation of environmental product labels and declarations. It aims to only allow environmental and product-related claims for differentiation on the market, if their application leads to a real ecological beneficial effect and they are verifiably achieved. The entire processing from the handling of raw materials through manufacturing, distribution, use and disposal of a product needs to be taken into consideration. The ISO 14024 "Environmental labels and declarations - Type I environmental labelling - Principles and procedures" is a guide for organisations, selection of products, as well as the setting, publication and control of criteria of ecologically oriented labels. The GOTS organisation is a non-commercial, non-profit organisation. The participation of interested parties, as required in the ISO 14024, is ensured in GOTS, which invites relevant international stakeholder organisations to participate in the revision process, which takes place every three years. The process is organised in a comprehensive and transparent manner: All contributions and suggestions received from stakeholders are examined and evaluated and the results (including the decision on what will be taken into account in the Standard) are made available to all participating organisations. Another important criterion is the award of the environmental label itself by an independent body (third party certification); this is ensured within GOTS by independent, specially accredited certifiers. The accreditation of these certifiers is, again, carried out by independent and internationally recognized accreditation bodies. In addition, the duration of the labels must be limited in time and regularly verified. These premises are fulfilled in GOTS by annual inspections and the recertification of all companies involved in the production process and the limitation of the certificates‘ validity to a maximum of 16 months. GOTS also meets the criteria requirements for "Type I" regarding the voluntary nature of the program and label use, the verifiability of all criteria, the consideration of the product life cycle, the environmental relevance and public accessibility of the rules.

Is it possible to use 'bamboo' in GOTS certified textiles?

Almost all bamboo fibre used in industrial textile production is not natural bamboo, but is a product for which the cellulose has been regenerated through a viscose/rayon process and can, therefore, not be considered as natural or even organic fibre, even if the bamboo plant was originally certified as organic, in the field. As a consequence, bamboo fibres can only be used for the tolerated remaining balance of conventional fibres in GOTS certified textiles. If the rayon is made from organically grown bamboo, up to 10% may be used for the ‘made with organic materials’ label grade. These rules also apply to regenerated fibres derived from any other raw material source (e.g. wood, cotton lints, soybean, milk).

Users of bamboo (and other regenerated) fibres should also be aware of the legal labelling requirements in their sales markets. In the US, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has clarified that, if bamboo is produced through a rayon process, these fibres must be labelled as rayon and not as bamboo (see FTC article ""). Equivalent labelling requirements also apply in the European Union.

How does GOTS provide the answer to Greenpeace's 'Detox' campaign challenge?

GOTS already prohibits the "11 hazardous chemicals that should be eliminated", targeted in Greenpeace’s 'Detox' campaign! The campaign has targeted global apparel manufacturers for their use of 11 hazardous chemicals and heavy metal categories, including alkylphenols, phthalates, brominated and chlorinated flame retardants, azo dyes, organotin compounds, perfluorinated chemicals, chlorobenzenes, chlorinated solvents, chlorophenols, short-chain chlorinated paraffins, as well as heavy metals including cadmium, lead, mercury and chromium. These compounds are known to be toxic, persistent, bio-accumulative, carcinogenic, mutagenic, reprotoxic, or hormone disruptors and their use poses risks for the environment and human health. The substances/substance groups highlighted in the campaign have always been prohibited for use in the processing/manufacturing of textile products certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard through the strict general requirements related to hazards and toxicity (GOTS chapter 2.3.2). In addition, GOTS chapter 2.3.1, "Prohibited and restricted inputs", explicitly lists those hazardous chemical inputs that are permitted for use in conventional textile processing but that are banned or restricted for environmental and/or toxicological reasons in all processing stages of GOTS goods. Solely for clarity, starting with GOTS Version 4.0, the Greenpeace campaign’s 11 input groups are all explicitly listed as prohibited.

The range of substances banned by GOTS is even more extensive than the Greenpeace list

table1

GOTS quality assurance criteria state that:

  • All chemical inputs (dyes and auxiliaries) used in the processing chain of GOTS certified textiles need to be approved by a GOTS approved certifier prior to their usage. The basis for their assessment is the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) which must be compiled according to a recognised norm or directive. The approved certifiers require further sources of information in the assessment - including additional toxicological and environmental data for specific components of the auxiliary agents, test reports and an independent laboratory analysis. Hence, GOTS approved chemical inputs have all been screened in detail before textile processors permit their use. More information about the input review process and the approved certifiers.
  • The trade names of all approved dyes and auxiliaries are compiled on "Positive Lists" that are available to all entities participating in the GOTS certification programme. Inputs not included on the Positive List are not allowed to be used.
  • As part of the annual on-site inspection that all businesses participating in the GOTS certification programme must undergo, the certifiers verify the use of compliant chemical inputs by examining the textile processors’ input recipes. Related GOTS control measures also include inventory checks of the chemical storage area(s), as well as the review of records and accounts for chemical inputs (invoices, delivery notes) to ensure that the declared and approved chemical inputs have been purchased in sufficient quantity to produce the given amount of GOTS Goods.
  • GOTS also requires testing of textile materials, intermediates and finished products in accordance with a risk assessment or, in the case of suspicion, that prohibited substances have been used. Since it is not affordable and reasonable to make testing of any prohibited substance part of the usual test protocol, GOTS (chapter 2.4.15) focuses the test protocol on prohibited substances which may well pose a valid risk for presence in allowed GOTS materials, chemical inputs, processes, finishing methods and storage of GOTS products and that are known to have a harmful effect on humans or the environment.
  • While any detection of prohibited substances at any level needs to be investigated for potential (intentional) use of the prohibited substance, (avoidable) contamination, or any other violation of GOTS criteria, the following limit values for intermediates and final products related to the Detox chemicals are outlined in GOTS chapter 2.4.15:

GOTS limit values and test methods relevant to the Greenpeace Detox campaign

table2

What is the difference between GOTS and OCS (Organic Content Standard of Textile Exchange) and of the related certification systems?

GOTS is a comprehensive standard that makes a ‘full product claim’ that sets detailed environmental and social criteria throughout the entire textile supply chain. By contrast, OCS (Organic Content Standard; previously OE 100 and Blended Standards - issued by Textile Exchange) traces the organic fibre flow throughout the entire textile supply chain, allowing an organic ‘fibre claim’ in the final textile product, but without any requirement to meet environmental or social criteria in processing. Brands and retailers may use OCS as a stepping stone to GOTS (e.g. a certification to cover tracking and handling while supply chains organise themselves to comply with GOTS).

Many companies in the supply chain choose to be certified to both standards - GOTS and OCS -, in order to better meet the needs of their customers. There may be cases in which a specific product cannot meet all demanding processing requirements of GOTS (eg: because not all dyestuffs and auxiliaries used comply with GOTS processing criteria or the minimum percentage of 70% organic fibres is not met). In that case, the product could still be certified to OCS, which allows verification and labelling for the organic fibre content. GOTS and OCS may, therefore, be seen as complementary rather than competing certification systems.

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