GOTS: Making Standards Work for Sustainability in Fashion

GOTS: Making Standards Work for Sustainability in Fashion

Integrating sustainability in fashion production is a key priority for the fashion industry, globally. The enforcement of sustainability standards in particular is an essential tool for making meaningful progress in this area and guarding against greenwashing claims. 

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is one of the standards that have been instituted to certify organic textiles globally. This week, we got in touch with Muktar Dodo, the representative of GOTS in Africa, to learn more about the work they are doing to engender sustainability principles in textile processing. 

 

What is GOTS?

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is a worldwide leading textile processing standard for fibres, including ecological and social criteria, backed up by independent third-party certification of the entire textile supply chain. 

The standard aims to define worldwide recognized requirements that ensure the certified organic status of textiles from the harvesting of the raw fiber,  environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing, up to labelling.  In this regard, GOTS fosters constant progress towards the development of better textile processing methods globally.

Within this process of continuous improvement, it collaborates with international stakeholders, including the textile and apparel industry, chemical suppliers, organic farming and environmental organizations, workers' rights groups, and labor unions. GOTS believes that a voluntary global standard, set in partnership with international stakeholder communities, ensures widespread global acceptance. In contrast to mere national standards, it also helps to remove barriers to international trade. Processors and manufacturers are thus enabled to export their organic fabrics and garments with one certification accepted in all major markets.

GOTS certification is associated with finished products which can be identified by the labels ‘made with organic’ and ‘organic’. ‘Made with organic’ means 70% of the materials that make a product are organic, whilst ‘organic’ means 95% of the materials used to make the finished product are organic. In addition to the labels, consumers should be able to see the reference to the independent certification body, and the license number of the certified entity which enables them to trace the certified company.

A distinctive feature of the GOTS certification standard is that it also encompasses socially responsible manufacturing following recognition of workers’ rights and ethical trade practices. Its social criteria are based on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) key conventions, which include a ban on child and forced labor and provisions, such as having systems in place to prove they are addressing social concerns such as grievances. 

GOTS work in Africa

Africa is a big part of GOTS’ drive to promote standards for organic textiles.  As a key stakeholder in the textile and apparel value chain, GOTS acknowledges that the African fashion industry is a vibrant and interesting landscape made up of diverse talents and culturally infused brands that can reach greater heights if they adopt sustainability principles in their operations.

“The compelling stories these brands tell will be the unique selling point for African fashion in the future, but as much as they are compelling, they also have to be sustainable,” recounts Muktar Dodo.

To date, North Africa and Southern Africa account for the highest number of GOTS certified facilities, with a total of 101 in 2021. Interest in East and West Africa is also increasing with government institutions and farmer associations expressing readiness to partner with the private sector, to develop an organic textile value chain that can serve a growing appetite in the global market. Burkina Faso, Togo, and Côte d’Ivoire all have ongoing private sector-led investments in organic cotton production and the organic textile processing value chain. In 2021, GOTS also launched a campaign dubbed "Towards an African Value Chain", intending to link up organic fiber producers in Africa with organic textile supply chains across the continent.

"Overall, engagements in 2021 were fruitful. The GOTS participation at the Africa Sourcing and Fashion Week (ASFW) in Addis Ababa received a lot of interest. As the sector grows in Africa, GOTS will continue to engage with relevant stakeholders on the continent to provide the necessary support that will ensure the protection of workers, consumers, and the environment in line with the GOATS mission," says Muktar Dodo, the GOTS representative in Africa.

In its quest to promote sustainable processing, GOTS encounters challenges with greenwashing and self-claims globally. In the African fashion industry specifically, the major challenge is that stakeholders do not have a simple framework on how to achieve sustainability through practical changes they can make in their businesses. Issues such as changes in how to source sustainable raw materials, how to verify sustainability claims, how to tackle traceability issues, labor issues, product design issues, and market linkages, are still not in place for most businesses.  

In light of these challenges, GOTS is seeking to address such challenges by partnering with stakeholders in the African fashion industry. Through opportunities to present GOTS and its benefits to a cross-section of stakeholders in Africa (either physically or virtually), GOTS aims to promote the increased use of organic textiles by highlighting their benefits. As such, brands, textile processors, organic fibre (plant and animal) producers, accessories manufacturers, and academia are important partners for GOTS.

Upcoming Events

The first GOTS conference in Africa is scheduled from the 4th to the 7th of November, during the Africa Sourcing and Fashion Week to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It will showcase African producers and processors to buyers from major international markets and provide an opportunity for all stakeholders in the organic textile value chain to meet under one roof.

To learn more about the work GOTS is doing, and how you can be a part of it, please visit their website

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GOTS: Making Standards Work for Sustainability in Fashion

May 04, 2022
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