There is no doubt about it: the world’s climate is changing. And at the same time, the world’s
population is growing, too. So, on the one hand, the consciousness about natural resources is
rising, and on the other hand, the world’s population needs food. This vicious circle occupies many
international organizations as well as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) all over the world.
Another issue in the focus of people’s attention around the world is rural poverty. This
focus, along with increased awareness of climate change and sustainability, has led to a
proliferation of projects to improve agricultural practices as well as raise the level of social
and environmental responsibility. In the near future it might be impossible to sell products that
are produced not only under ecological standards, but also according to social standards.
Global Organic Textile Standard
As the Rupp Report has already reported, in the spot of monitoring are all chemical inputs
such as dyestuffs and auxiliaries, which must comply with certain environmental and toxicological
criteria, and the choice of accessory materials also is restricted. In this context, the Global
Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is recognized worldwide as one of the top processing standards for
organic fiber-based textiles.
Currently, there are more than 2,000 companies around the world working according to GOTS
standards. The standard includes not only fiber production but also criteria related to dyeing and
Finishing In The Center Of Attention …
For obvious reasons, the finishing sector especially demands to be certifed according to
GOTS. An increasing aspect is ecology and toxicology, on which basis dyestuffs and auxiliaries are
evaluated and approved. Desizing can cause problems if the applied enzymes are genetically
modified. Mercerizing is allowed only without the use of ammonia. Optical brighteners are very
problematic: They cause a lot of problems in wastewater treatment because of their poor
biodegradability and high toxicity levels, and they also can influence the human hormone system
through estrogen receptor cells. Fabrics finished with antibacterial treatments can affect the
natural behavior of human skin as well.
… But Social Standards Also Are Important
But not only environmental issues are part of the standard. GOTS also includes current
minimum social standards: no forced labor or child labor, a safe working environment, no
discrimination and the guarantee of payment that secures a living for the working people. This is
quite important. More and more Western companies are emphasizing social standards. Just a few weeks
ago, one of the world’s top retail chains had a public relations nightmare: The company was on the
front page of daily newspapers around the globe because some NGOs found out that in spite of
existing labor contracts and guaranteed minimum payments, the workers were underpaid.
Too Many Labels On The Market
As with every trend, many companies are jumping on the bandwagon. As a producer, retailer or
consumer, one must be careful to have all the certificates and the right papers sent along with the
goods so that the products can be traced back in a clear system. There are a lot of institutes that
have a “Bio” label on their letterhead. One of the most popular trends at the moment is certainly
to bear the Öko-Tex® 100 label. Without being cynical, one could say it may be somewhat
questionable when this label appears on a shirt with a value of just a few dollars.
If you would like to share your experience with these kinds of labels, write to
August 31, 2010