by Ivory King
As we show in our commitment to giving back to vulnerable communities, art & eden believes in better choices. That’s why we only work with mills and factories that are certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard. The GOTS certification creates better standards for materials, the textile supply chain, and social aspects of production.
GOTS certified cotton goes further than sustainable practices
Some non-organic cotton is being grown under more sustainable practices — the Better Cotton Initiative and the Cotton Made In Africa initiative both work with farmers to limit the usage of chemicals, and mitigate the environmental impacts of their crops on the land. BCI is “technologically neutral,” meaning they do not take a stand on the use of genetically modified seeds, while CMIA does exclude such seeds. Both initiatives take steps to address worker conditions in their respective sets of countries.
While sustainable and transitional practices are much more respectful of the environment and workers, organic certification takes extra steps, like no GMOs or unapproved chemicals. Depending on the certification, this can mean transitioning the soil to ensure that chemicals have had time to be removed from the land, requirements for all components of the garment, and safety for workers.
GOTS organic cotton is different than USDA Organic
GOTS has had a tremendous impact on the textile industry because organic farming and processing procedures affects so many people in countries that produce the bulk of cotton crops — especially India, China and Pakistan. In these areas, there can be fewer laws restricting dangerous chemical usage, and biotechnology corporations can be more free to dominate their agriculture industries with genetically modified or hybridized seeds — organic practices create a farmer-enforced healthier alternative to conventional agriculture which sometimes has dangerous consequences, as described in the article Why is organic cotton better?
The GOTS certification creates standards for materials, the textile supply chain, and social aspects of production. This begins with fiber composition — at least seventy percent of fiber must be organic, and continues with each step its own parameters: dyeing and printing, finishing materials, and wastewater management. As for social criteria, GOTS is just as specific: no coerced workers, right to collective bargaining, no child labour, no discrimination, and safe and hygienic work conditions.
As for the OCS, this standard refers specifically to the integrity and percentage of organic fiber in a product. This label is ideal for blended fabrics, such as the cotton-poly blends in some of our clothing made with organic cotton and recycled polyester. OCS does not address chemical, social or environmental aspects of production, just the organic material and the percentage used in the final product.
The USDA Organic label is regulated by the National Organic Program (NOP), a program housed within the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service and applies the same restrictions as it does to agricultural products. The NOP criteria do not include processing or manufacturing standards as the GOTS certification does. Further muddying the labelling waters, textile products that are GOTS certified can be sold in the US as organic, but may not claim NOP certification or display the USDA organic seal. USDA certification is still a formidable process, with costs that can add up to several thousand dollars, depending on the brand.
Not only do different certifications mean different regulations and practice requirements, the wording is precise. Within the textile industry, terminology is very specific — “made with organic cotton,” vs “organic garment” mean two very different things. When a piece of clothing is labeled organic, this includes the non-fabric components — the trim, fastenings, etc. If it says made with organic cotton, it refers to the fabric itself, and does not cover the status of zippers, buttons, or anything else.
The social impact of GOTS certified organic cotton
Working with GOTS-certified factories ensures that the workers who produce our affordable and unique outfits are safe and respected. The mills and manufacturers we work with commit to maintaining an environment where workers get paid fairly without being abused or pressured to work excessive hours. art & eden is committed to connecting families to quality kids clothing that is fun and healthy to wear at a great value. But our commitment is also to all the people along the journey from plants to pants (or shirt or sweater)!
Originally published at www.artandeden.com.