In the textile industry, there are two third party certifications which are transparent and to which we certify our fabrics: the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Oeko-Tex. Another logo you see on our site is the GreenSpec logo. To be listed by GreenSpec means that the products are best of class as determined by Environmental Building News.
What does it mean for a fabric to be GOTS certified?
The Global Organic Textile Standard, GOTS, was published in 2006. It was brought about through the combined efforts of organic trade associations of the United States, Great Britain, Japan, and Germany. GOTS aims to define a universal standard for organic fabrics—from harvesting the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing, to labeling—in order to provide credible assurance to consumers. Standards apply to fiber products, yarns, fabrics and clothes and cover the production, processing, manufacturing, packaging, labeling, exportation, importation and distribution of all natural fiber products. GOTS provides a continuous quality control and certification system from field to shelf. A GOTS certified fabric is therefore much more than just a textile which is made from organic fibers.
To be GOTS certified:
- a fabric must be made of from 70% (for label grade “made with organic”) to 95% (for label grade “organic”) organic fiber – so 5% or 30% of the fabric can be either:
- regenerated fibers from certified organic raw materials, sustainable forestry management (FSC / PEFC) or recycled.
- certified recycled synthetic fibers (recycled polyester, polyamide, polypropylene or polyurethane)
- Our GOTS fabrics are all 100% organic fiber.
- As the GOTS website explains, “As it is to date technically nearly impossible to produce any textiles in an industrial way without the use of chemical inputs, the approach is to define criteria for low impact and low residual natural and synthetic chemical inputs. So in addition to requiring that all inputs have to meet basic requirements on toxicity and biodegradability. GOTS also prohibits entire classes of chemicals. Why is this important? Because rather than calling out specific prohibited chemicals. What that means is that instead of prohibiting, for example lead and cadmium (and therefore allowing other heavy metals by default), GOTS prohibits ALL heavy metals.
- Wastewater treatment must be in place before discharge to surface waters. This pertains to pH and temperature, as well as to biological and chemical residues in the water.
- Labor practices are interpreted in accordance with the International Labor Organization (ILO – no forced, bonded, or slave labor; workers have the right to join or form trade unions and to bargain collectively; working conditions are safe and hygienic; there must be no new recruitment of child labor (and for those companies where children are found to be working, provisions must be made to enable him to attend and remain in quality education until no longer a child); wages paid must meet, at a minimum, national legal standards or industry benchmarks, whichever is higher; working hours are not excessive and inhumane treatment is prohibited. These requirements are incredibly important as it is still the 19th century at many fabric spinners, mills and dye houses in the world.
- Environmentally sound packaging requirements must be in place; PVC in packaging is prohibited; paper must be post-consumer recycled or certified according to FSC or PEFC.
- GOTS has a dual system of quality assurance consisting of on-side annual inspection (including possible unannounced inspections based on risk assessment of the operations) and residue testing.
Our opinion is that the GOTS standard is the most comprehensive and rigorous certification regarding textiles. It’s also quite hard to obtain!
GOTS, however, does not directly address the carbon footprint of an organization or its production practices, but we feel a GOTS certified fabric is the best choice in terms of carbon footprint, by far. (Please note: the choice of a fabric made of organically raised natural fibers has been shown to have a much lower carbon impact than any fabric made of synthetic fibers including the much touted recycled polyester. We touched on that in our some of our blog posts; click here and here to read them.
Fabric made from organic fibers which have been processed conventionally can be – and almost always are – full of residual toxic chemicals – and its production may have released literally tons of chemicals into the environment; its carbon footprint stinks and worker safety is suspect. Think of the organic applesauce analogy we use: if you start with organic apples, then cook them with preservatives, emulsifiers, Red Dye #2, and stabilizers, the final product cannot be called “organic”. Same is true with fabrics.
Fabric made with “organic fiber” but processed conventionally
GOTS compliant fabric
Uses organic fibers only
|Free of any known chemicals that can harm you or the ecosystem||
|Water is treated before release||
|Workers paid fair wages; working conditions hygenic||
To read more about GOTS, go to: http://www.global-standard.org
What does it mean for a fabric to be Oeko-Tex certified?
The goal of Oeko-Tex fabric safety standard is to ensure that fabrics pose no risk to human health.
The Oeko-Tex Standard, in use since 1992, prohibits the same long list of chemicals that GOTS prohibits; but Oeko-Tex addresses nothing else about the production steps. For example, wastewater treatment is not required, nor are workers rights addressed. It is NOT an organic certification and products bearing this mark are not necessarily made from organically grown fibers – or from natural fibers at all. Plastic yarn (polyester, nylon, acrylic) is permitted. Oeko-Tex is only concerned with the safety of the use of the final product.
The Oeko-Tex 100 certification does emphasize thorough testing for a lengthy list of chemicals which are known or suspected to harm health, including lead, antimony, arsenic, phthalates, pesticides, and chlorinated phenols. The official table of limits for tested chemicals may be found on the Oeko-Tex website (click here). Specifically banned are:
- Azo dyes
- All flame retardants
- Carcinogenic and allergy-inducing dyes
- Chlorinated phenols
- Chloro-organic benzenes and toluenes
- Heavy metals
- Organotin compounds (TBT and DBT)
Oeko-Tex certified fabrics are required to have a skin friendly pH. If you remember your high school chemistry, pH is the indication of the level of acidity or base (salt). Skin’s natural pH is a tad acidic, and when it’s eroded your defenses are down, leaving you vulnerable to bacteria, moisture loss, and irritation. Oeko-Tex certified fabrics will not create these stresses. And the fabrics will feel lovely against your skin.
Textiles considered for this standard are classified into four categories, and each category has different test values for chemicals allowed in the product:
- Product Class I: Products for Babies – all textile products and materials used to manufacture such textile products for children up to the age of 36 months (leather clothing is an exception)
- Product Class II: Products with direct contact to Skin – worn articles of which a large surface touches the skin (i.e. underwear, shirts, pants)
- Product Class III: Products without Direct Contact to Skin – articles of which only a small part of their surface touches the skin (i.e. linings, stuffings)
- Product Class IV: Decoration Material – this may also be thought of as housewares, as this category includes table cloths, wall coverings, furnishing fabrics, curtains, upholstery fabrics, floor coverings, and mattresses.
Certification may be given to a finished product (such as a shirt), or to individual components (such as yarn, or fabric).
To read more about Oeko Tex, go to: https://www.oeko-tex.com/en/manufacturers/manufacturers.xhtml
What does it mean for a product to be GreenSpec listed?
BuildingGreen.com is the publisher of Environmental Building News (EBN) and the GreenSpec directory. GreenSpec was developed as a way to find products with environmental benefits in mind: GreenSpec listed products are those that are considered the best-of-the-best green building products, according to Environmental Building News. The products are independently selected by the researchers at BuildingGreen to ensure that the products contain unbiased, quality information. This certification is in a sort of grey area, because the staff of Environmental Building News does not have a stake in any of the companies producing the recommended products, so they do not have a vested interest. They do have an interest in promoting products which they consider to be harmless to people and the environment.
The criteria which the products must meet include:
- Avoidance of hazardous ingredients
- Biobased and sustainably sourced
- Produced by companies which have responsible corporate practices
- Information transparency
All of the fabrics in the Two Sisters collection are GreenSpec listed.