GOTS Is a Certification That Actually Tackles Textile Greenwashing

The Global Organic Textile Standard's head of marketing tells Treehugger why the standard has developed such an excellent reputation over 20 years.

GOTS manufacturing in India

Global Organic Textile Standard

If you read labels when buying new clothes (and hopefully you do!), then you've likely encountered a little green circle with a white T-shirt inside it—the logo of the Global Organic Textile Standards, or GOTS, as it's commonly known. 

GOTS is considered to be the world's leading textile processing standard for organic fibers. Its high standards for production include environmental and social criteria, all of which are backed up by independent, third-party verification of the entire textile supply chain.

This year marks GOTS' twentieth anniversary and, to celebrate, the nonprofit organization has launched an "anti-greenwashing" campaign called "Faces from Field to Fashion." With a series of candid videos featuring eight employees from across GOTS' four-million-strong global workforce, it strives to give viewers a glimpse into textile workers' lives and show how they've been helped by working in GOTS-certified facilities.

By extension, the hope is that viewers will learn more about GOTS and realize what big things that little logo represents. In the words of one press release, "We aim to empower people to say no to greenwashing and say yes to GOTS."

Treehugger spoke with Holger Stripf, GOTS Head of Marketing, over email to learn more about the campaign.

wool processing in Peru
Worker processing wool in GOTS-certified facility, Peru.

Global Organic Textile Standard

Treehugger: Is greenwashing a serious problem in the textile industry? What should consumers be looking out for?

Holger Stripf: Yes, greenwashing is a serious issue in many industries. Many companies, knowingly or unknowingly, make false or exaggerated claims to appear more environmentally friendly or socially responsible than they really are. This is misleading to consumers and, as a result, slows down wide-reaching progress for the textile industry to become less polluting and more socially responsible. It also devalues the work of the companies who are operating in an environmentally and socially responsible manner to produce a truly trustworthy final product.

We are glad to see that more governments act against greenwashing. This has led to several high-profile cases in recent years—against airlines, fashion and beauty companies, and the food and beverage industry, among others. Our campaign intends to interest and educate consumers on the topic and demonstrate that there are credible options out there. Consumers should always look for claims that are backed by an independent, third-party certification and be critical of self-claims.

Can you describe some of the qualities that make GOTS stand out in the fashion industry?

Consumers can be confident that the strict social and environmental requirements of GOTS were followed along every single step of production, from A to Z. It all starts with the certified organic raw material allowed in GOTS and continues along the next stages of processing: spinning, weaving and knitting, wet-processing, manufacturing, packaging, labelling, and trading, all the way to the final distribution of the product.

Every company involved in the production of a GOTS-certified item must be certified, ensuring that products are made under safe and fair working conditions, that workers are treated with dignity and respect, and that responsible and efficient use of resources is followed throughout processing. This results in a fully traceable product which is free of harmful chemicals.

Workers in a GOTS-certified wool factory, Peru
Workers in a GOTS-certified wool factory, Peru.

Global Organic Textile Standard

GOTS also stands out by being an independent, self-financed, non-profit organization that is independent of outside economic interests. The claims of GOTS are verified by external, third-party, accredited Certification Bodies. Compliance with our Standard is certified by both on-site auditing and testing, which includes quality parameters and chemical residue testing.

Lastly, the Standard is revised every three years in an inclusive and collaborative process where we work with experts, stakeholders, and companies, and including two rounds of public input and consultation. This allows us to remain up to date with new technology, while constantly improving the requirements of the Standard for greater social and environmental protection, as well as increased fraud prevention.

What benefits do companies experience after undergoing certification?

GOTS certification provides high credibility for the certified company since compliance with the strict GOTS criteria, along the entire value chain, is verified by independent, third-party certification bodies.

It can also be a unique and important tool for a business’s risk management strategy, providing up-to-date, scientifically sound, relevant, and verifiable criteria, which are recognized and established, and mitigating ecological and social risks in the supply chain.

In addition, certification requires factories to become more efficient and use less water and energy, which improves environmental protection and reduces both immediate costs and long-term investment risks for companies. 

Another important benefit is the opportunity a GOTS certification gives companies to enter new markets as consumers increasingly seek more sustainable products.

Textile worker in GOTS-certified factory, India
Textile worker in GOTS-certified factory, India.

Global Organic Textile Standard

What is the goal of this campaign?

To inspire, engage, and educate. Of course, we do want more people to recognize and seek out sustainable choices, but the GOTS logo on a final product itself does not mean anything unless consumers understand what is behind the label. 

We aim to empower people around the world who want to purchase organic textile products to recognize false or exaggerated claims when they see it, to understand more about the supply chain and workers along it, and to know that when they see a GOTS certification on a finished item, that product has been produced not just with certified organic fibers but to the highest ecological and social criteria.

textile worker in GOTS-certified factory, Tanzania
Textile worker in GOTS-certified factory, Tanzania.

Global Organic Textile Standard

Interview has been edited for clarity and length.