how good is gots?
It is one of the best-known seals for textile products: The green circle with the white shirt certifies more and more T-shirts, children's clothing and bed linen according to the GOTS standard. What exactly does it mean?
GOTS stands for "Global Organic Textile Standard."
The seal is awarded by the IWG(Global Organic Textile Standard International Working Group), which was founded in 2002 by several international natural textile associations. The aim was and is to ensure uniform standards worldwide and to clear up the jungle of labels. From Germany, the industry association IVN e.V. was and is significantly involved, which itself awards the even stricter IVN Best seal.
The other three organisations come from England (Soil Association), the USA (Organic Trade Association) and Japan (Japan Organic Cotton Association).
These four organisations also work on the continuous development of the seal and update the requirements and criteria every 3 years. The current version GOTS 6.0 dates from 2020.
"From Field to Fashion
For GOTS, the entire value chain is certified: All companies involved in the further processing of cotton up to the finished product must meet the specific requirements. It is irrelevant whether they operate in the Global South or in Europe.
The production of clothing involves many steps, most of which are carried out in several countries - which is why there are not many seals that look at the entire process . Ökotex, for example, only checks the end product for harmful substances, while Fairtrade (so far) looks at the raw material cotton (the more comprehensive Fairtrade Textile Production seal is just being created. More information on the Fairtrade seal can be found in this article).
What exactly does GOTS certified mean? The criteria
As the name suggests, the ecological aspect is very important for GOTS.
This means concretely for the raw material:
- The textile must consist of at least 70% (in the stricter version even 95%) of organically grown natural fibres - mostly cotton. Other plant fibres would be hemp or linen; but animal products such as wool are also possible.
- Organic means among other things:
- No chemical pesticides and herbicides
- No artificial fertilisers
- No genetic engineering
- Significantly reduced water consumption (up to 90 percent!)
- cotton is grown in rotation with other crops to maintain soil quality (crop rotation)
- However, the remaining 30% of the material must not simply come from conventional cotton; it can either be other conventional, natural fibres, sustainable regenerated fibres (viscose, Tencel, Modal, Lyocell) or recycled synthetic fibres.
For further processing, this means, among other things:
- Potentially harmful chemicals are banned, e.g. heavy metals in dyeing and printing
- The cotton may only be bleached on an oxygen basis
- Companies must have an environmental protection management system, for example to save water and energy, and to be able to treat waste water again (i.e. sewage treatment plants are mandatory).
In addition, GOTS-certified products also meet a number of social criteria based on the ILO core labour standards:
- No discrimination, violence or harassment in the workplace
- No child labour
- Limitation of overtime
- Safety in the workplace
- Right to trade unions
- Minimum or collectively agreed wage as a basic requirement; a living wage is aimed for
How credible is GOTS?
GOTS is considered a seal with very high transparency and credibility. The criteria catalogue can be viewed in detail, and compliance is regularly checked by independent inspection bodies.
Even with very low-priced products - for example, when discounters offer GOTS-certified clothing - one can rely on the sustainable production. The fact that the goods are nevertheless offered at a very low price is often due to the large sales volumes in such cases as well as cross-financing: the margin for the GOTS products is then smaller, which is made up for by many other goods.
Does GOTS also stand for quality?
Yes, absolutely: For example, the quality of the cotton is higher because chemical defoliants are banned - the cotton is harvested by hand. Further processing also takes place under appropriate working conditions and defined specifications for processes, materials and colours - this also ensures high quality.
Why are the GOTS criteria not even stricter?
GOTS attempts the balancing act of introducing the strictest possible regulations, but at the same time remaining feasible for a relatively large number of companies. Since currently only 1% of the cotton grown worldwide comes from organic cultivation, it is a central concern to bring this minimum requirement to the mass market and to significantly increase the share.
GOTS has been quite successful in this: in the meantime, the seal can be found on very many everyday products that are also offered in conventional shops. Especially for baby and children's clothing, it has become standard almost everywhere and can be found in most shops.
The BewusstGrün fabric napkins are also completely GOTS-certified.
As GOTS is continuously developing the standard, the criteria are also regularly tightened.
What is criticised about GOTS?
While there is nothing wrong with the transparency, credibility and ecological criteria, the social criteria are criticised for not being far-reaching enough.
Central to this is that GOTS so far only requires the legal minimum wage; however, organisations like the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) demand the payment of a "living wage" - that is, a wage that actually covers all important cost factors and even allows some money to be saved.
The difference between the minimum wage and the living wage is very high in some countries: the CCC sets the living wage in Bangladesh at about 5 times higher than the law prescribes.
In fact, however, even the minimum wage is very often simply not paid by traditional companies, or only after a disproportionate amount of overtime has been worked. In a 2019 investigation, the CCC found: in 43 out of 45 conventional companies surveyed, there is no evidence that "at least some of the women workers are paid living wages". This includes corporations such as H&M, Zara, Primark or Amazon.
If large corporations actually made a consistent effort to comply with the minimum wage, this would indeed already be a big step forward - even if some more steps have to follow.
GOTS is a credible label for the entire supply chain that places a strong focus on environmental requirements. The social criteria are based on the core labour standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). There is potential for improvement in the wages of workers.