Buyer's Guide, Understand Quality

To Fully understand the Oeko-Tex, organic cotton, GOTS, and OCS labels.

Organic cotton, GOTS, Oeko-Tex, OCA, … To understand what these labels are really worth, their benefits, their shortcomings, their traps.

Globally, the clothing industry is polluting. The awareness of the problem has led to several initiatives. What is excellent and should be encouraged. However, when you dive deeper, there are also falsehoods and abuses, which you should be aware of.

At the end, the objective is to have GOOD PRATICES AT ALL LEVELS, on consumption, use of non-renewable resources, toxicity, waste, carbon footprint, recyclability, working conditions. FROM THE BEGINNING TO THE END. To offer the consumers/buyers sustainable and healthy quality products, for them and their children, i.e. future generations

The first paragraph, despite its surprising title, will make it easy for you to understand the issues, as well as how works the marketing good conscience while hiding the dust under the carpet. Knowing that bad practices often cause irreparable damage.

On my side, I work almost exclusively with natural fibres. And I’m going to increase my sustainable propositions. Doing my best to find a good compromise between quality and price.

Who am I?

My name is Polina. I design and make fashion accessories.

With more than 200 fabrics at your disposal. Only top quality, almost all in natural materials.

This post aims at sharing what I have learned, with the hope that it will inspire you to DISCOVER MY CREATIONS.

Summary

  • Clothing is also a major cause of global pollution.
  • 4 significant labels exist: Organic Cotton, GOTS, Oeko-Tex, and OCS.
  • Oeko-Tex means that the garment AT THE END does not contain any element that is potentially harmful to your health. On the other hand, it can – or not – have been manufactured with very bad practices. So despite what the name suggests, it is not beneficial, incl. for the environment.
  • Organic Cotton means that ONLY COTTON FIBER has been grown organically. With too many grey areas and black spots behind the beautiful appearances. All the steps after harvesting (ginning, spinning, dyeing, finishing, etc.) can be negative for your health and/or the environment. Even its ecological relevance is uncertain, not to mention the quality or sometimes awful working conditions
  • GOTS indicates that EVERYTHING, from start to finish, is done the right way, as much as feasible. This is the best choice to date, not only for health and the environment.
  • OCS only certifies the organic fibre content. The big strength is the traceability from the field. The big “weak” point: it only concerns the fibre. This is the most common certification.
  • The effective extra cost for being an organic cotton or oeko-tex is totally anecdotal compared to the final selling price. GOTS having a large set of specifications, the extra cost is more significant.
  • These different labels are not indicative of quality. There is no obvious difference between organic and conventional cotton, and there are many ways to use the positive halo of organic to sell you products that are worth less.
  • – the brands and chains to be favored over those that display the references of their certifications, and communicate on their own results in terms of environmental impact. And you should avoid those that use figures from elsewhere, and without displaying the certificates, which is mandatory.
  • It is very important, even more important, to help also the “simply” responsible and not organic cottons. Because it is a very high risk to make this first step, which revolutions many things for the farmers, including for their well-being (health, income, work of children, …). Some trustworthy are inidicated below.
  • Few key points, beyond the labels:
    • Every fibre is open to criticism and has its own excesses, whatever man says or suggets.
    • Artificial fibres are polluting, both during and after manufacture; they are not biodegradable and use non-renewable resources.
    • In absolute terms, the best thing to do, by far, is to reduce the purchases of poly. as much as possible, as the damages caused are irreparable. This does not mean banning it: it is irrealistic, and anyway,  its minor presence can enhance the durability of the garment. How much means minor? 10% max. in general, up to 25% for technical products, or those that get faster used (e.g. underwear)
    • natural fibres, hair and leather have the advantage of being bio-degradable; the issues are washing, dyeing and finishing;
  • Synthetic fibres (lyocell, viscose, bamboo, etc.) have two disadvantages: 1. they require harmful chemical products, which can be reused but are not degradable, 2. they consume a lot of energy during the chemical process (heating, cooling), which has a negative impact on global warming.
    • The fact that an item is made of recycled polyester, even if it’s not as bad, doesn’t change the biggest problem: poly. is the number one contributor to micro-plastic pollution, and each one increases it by tens of thousands with each wash.
    • So-called “Vegan” / faux leathers come from petrochemicals, are polluting and non-biodegradable. Efforts are nevertheless being made to incorporate vegetable materials;
    • Silk production requires a high level of humidity and temperature control. What is very energy intensive.
    • Beyond reducing poly. and buying good organic cottons, you can also reduce your purchases, think better before buying to reduce mistakes, invest more and better on beautiful timeless basics of high quality (and durability), recycle your clothes, check if there is not a good opportunity on vinted / vestiairecollective / …, etc.

Cucumber and blush brush syndromes

In store, cucumbers are often sold in plastic film.

When this is not done, the cucumbers are more damaged during their route from field to shelf. Losses and unsold increase, and beyond, all the water, energy, pollutants (fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, etc.) that will have been used for nothing. This increases costs. And therefore the prices. What is the best? Knowing that it is not realistic to imposeto everyone the sole purchase of an organic cucumber without plastic and transported on a vegetable cushion by bicycle from its birthplace.

Basically, it’s complex if you take everything into account … and very often, at the end of the calculations, like with the cucumber, it’s like “less bad X, but more bad Y”.

On the other hand, what should be avoided is pretence, i.e. when you make people believe that it is better in absolute terms, when it is really worse from another angle. For example, when a synthetic blush brush claims to be the best thing for animal health, while hiding the fact that it will degrade the planet almost forever (because it’s not biodegradable and cannot be recycled), it’s like saying that a candy (almost only sugar) contains no fat. Further, how can man say that a more polluted world, with accelerating climate change, is a good thing for animals?

Why is clothing (shoes + clothes) so polluting?

Fashion caused a scandal in 2015, being denounced as the 2nd most polluting industry. Since then, we know that this is a false, that it started as a rumour, coming from information that was perhaps misunderstood several times, and that was originally taken from a Deloitte audit report… that was never found. Beyond the anecdote, there is no way of quantifying and classifying pollution in the broad sense. You can possibly do it on one factor, such as CO2 emissions or pesticides, but not on everything at once, from the beginning (e.g. the field) to the end (your home). And then between what is more or less biodegradable, more or less recyclable, more or less bio-cumulable, …

However, there are several points to bear in mind

  1. Population x Number of garments x Number of items per garment

First of all, every human needs to get dressed. And after that, you have to think about shoes, clothes and accessories. Including everything you need to make the finished product: buttons, zips, elastics, etc.

2. The huge use of synthetic fibres

Artificial fibres account for about 2/3 of the world’s consumption (in fibres). They are derived from petrochemicals (an exhaustible resource). They are non-biodegradable; their manufacturing process is polluting; their use is polluting and their destruction is polluting.

Further:

  • It is a source of plastic micro-particles released into the water, which we cannot filter and which are increasingly found in our food. To illustrate this concretely: during a wash, each gram of polyester releases several thousands of plastic micro-particles (source: the plastic soup foundation). Even if you think that this is necessarily exaggerated or extreme, and that you moderate a lot, it remains deeply shocking. You also have this study from the Plymouth university
  • poly. are not water soluble, they require specific and so-called disperse dyes, which are also particularly harmful to the environment.

3. The Leather

The tanning and dyeing of leather (clothes, shoes) often uses highly polluting and toxic products

4. The Full length of the production Chain

The production of a textile always involves a large number of steps. For example, in the case of cotton: growing, harvesting, ginning, bleaching, washing, spinning, dyeing, weaving, finishing, …. And each stage potentially poses a problem in terms of what is consumed and what is released in the environment.

  • Uses:
    • Water (cultivation, washing, cleaning, factory maintenance, …)
    • Chemicals, and all their risks (toxicity, corrosiveness, biodegradability, etc.)
    • Energy
    • Use of non-renewable resources
  • Discharges to the environment,
    • in soil and/or air and/or water
    • optimised or not, biodegradable or not, recycled or not, cumulative or not, …

The specific environmental challenges of the textile industry

Here is a summary of the main issues:

  • Cultivation: insecticides, fungicides, fertilizers, excessive irrigation, spraying, …
  • Harvesting: defoliants
  • Manufacture of man-made fibres (derived from plants, like viscose / rayon): toxic and corrosive chemicals, water and energy consumption
  • Manufacture of synthetic fibres (poly.): use of non-renewable resources, manufacture PLUS use PLUS destruction are polluting
  • Spinning: chemical waxes
  • Bleaching: chlorine derivatives
  • Finish: surfactants, formaldehyde
  • Dyeing / printing: petrochemical dyes, fixers, sulphur, heavy metals, …
  • Discharge of hot and pH modified -and therefore corrosive- water,

Afterwards, for each of them, there are several aspects to take into account:

  • Recyclability?
  • Biodegradability?
  • Accumulation effect in water or soil?
  • Toxicity and disruptive effects?
  • Knowledge of good practices by the players?
  • Local norms and levels of Control

In fact, agriculture is a complex subject, and fibres are also grown by small producers, in poor or developing countries. So good practices, assuming they even heard about them …

Organic Cotton

A very ambiguous step

Already, when we talk about organic cotton, it is about the “cultivation” stage. And everything that happens afterwards, to transform this cotton into something, can be good or not. And as we saw earlier, a lot happens between the harvest and the arrival at your home.

On the web, we can find figures on the consumption of pesticides and water related to cotton. When you go in depth, you find no source, inactive links, or information from the last century, which many people happily repeat. It is unlikely that detailed statistics are available, and fully accessible, from the world’s top two producers, India and China. That said, it is clear that there is too much excess. In fact, there are also excesses here in any developed countru (spraying, green algae, groundwater, etc.), and it can only be worse in poorer and developing countries, which are even less constrained or controlled by standards.

A report was commissioned by some players (H&M, C&A, Kering, Nike, …); published in 2014, just before the “rumour” mentioned above, probably not by chance. It shows that organic cotton is better for water and energy consumption, CO2 production, soil acidification, soil and water overfeeding (eutrophication). I invite you to read the report: it is simple, well done, very interesting, very convincing, and its information is still used today. But biased, see later.

Basically, it is obvious that we must do what is best for the environment. Unfortunately, there are several nuances that need to be taken into account, which I will explain in more detail later:

  1. “Organic” crop protection products (antifungals, insecticides, etc.) are not harmless and biodegradable and their use is restricted (in Europe).
  2. A “conventional” cotton producer can also reduce his water consumption. For sake of cost management. Further, water depends on climate, geography, performance of irrigation equipment, good practices, etc.
  3. the lowest energy consumption is linked to the use of manual labour. And in this particular case, people who are often forced to work at mercy.
  4. This does not commit to anything that happens after the field. Each subsequent step (ginning, spinning, bleaching, washing, dyeing, etc.) can be polluting and/or toxic.
  5. it is biased by the notion of yield: organic may use less but also produce less. The bottom line?
  6. the main production centres have been deliberately relocated to Asia and South America, while the consumption centres are in Europe and the United States. This very negatively weights the carbon footprint. An element that has not been included in the report.

Finally, echoing these nuances, the report mentions in its introduction

EN: This study does also not intend to conduct a comparative assertion as defined in the ISO standard (14040 series). Available published data on conventional cotton is used to set the results of the presented study into perspective, for discussion and interpretation.

Life Cycle Assessment of Cotton – 2014 – Textile Exchange

In other words, that compares figures that are not standardised and thus subject to debate.

Understand how anecdotal is the extra cost of organic (a few cents on a garment)

To put things in perspective …

The average price of cotton is very fluctuating. It depends on the demand, the weather, the speculations, the areas, the qualities, … To simplify the calculation, let’s say it is 2€/kg (currently in March 2022, more like 2.50). A T-shirt is let’s say 150g of cotton, which makes 30 cents.

Organic cotton is between 20 and 30% more expensive. It is impossible to give a precise figure because there are many criteria that define the value of any cotton (whiteness, fibre length, strength, origin, …). However, 30% more on 30 cents only adds 9 cents.

A white organic short-sleeved T-shirt costs between 5 and …. 100 Euros. Just to say that, in absolute terms, the extra cost of organic is relatively anecdotal. However, the problem is that you will often be asked to pay 20 or 30% more …. and not just 9 cents more. And 20% more on 5 Euros, that’s + 1 €. Which is 91 cents more than the initial 9 cents.

Other players will be able to stay within similar prices …. while lowering the grammage and/or the quality of the cotton and/or the quality of the dyes.

By the way, why are there so many price differences? Very simple: there are margins, obviously, or cost control, but the price also depends a lot on the quality (material, yarn, weave), and the quantity of material (i.e. the thicker it is, the more expensive it is – and vice versa). Quality affects durability. And the more durable and bio-degradable it is, the better it is for the planet.

To illustrate, here is the example of the largest seller of own-brand fabrics: Liberty London. The classic fabric (Tana Lawn – “conventional” cotton) is sold at £25 per metre on the official website. And the organic version at £29.95. Difference? +20%, or £4.95, or 6€.

I use this example because here the pattern (Wiltshire), the brand (Liberty London), the factory and the “grammage” (basis weight) are identical. Such a comparison on a T-shirt might be possible but I haven’t found it.

Understanding the grey areas and black spots of Organic Cotton

When we look at food, labels and slogans are flourishing: organic, guaranteed without pesticide residue, without post-harvest treatment, high environmental value, sustainable agriculture, etc.

Why? Because it is a very complex subject (re. cucumber syndrome). People generally adopt much faster what is very simple. And the only “simple thing” is BIO / ORGANIC. But if other labels exist, it’s because organic also has certain limits, including danger.

Why you will never have a faire and reliable comparison between organic and conventional cotton

The quality of the cotton – and what it needs to grow well – depends on many parameters: “natural” climate (heat, rain), daily weather, cultivar/variety, fertiliser, good practices on the farm, etc.

Further, cotton is produced in many areas of the world, that have very different climates. For example, Egypt is hot and dry, while India is rather hot and humid (monsoon). An Egyptian cotton differs from an Indian cotton, which itself varies according to the region.

To compare organic vs. conventional, you would have to divide the same field in 2, with the same weather, with the same level of good practices, etc. And nobody will do it, because it is really not easy to do, long (1 crop = 6 months), scientifically expensive, and who would pay the cost? For what benefit? Because if conventional farming wins …

Moral: we are comparing apples and pears, and each player chooses his pears and apples according to his interests and what he wants to demonstrate or make believe. But in essence, this changes nothing, we must drastically improve our negative impacts on the environment. Without making people think that the moon is made of green cheese.

The Dangerousness of “Organic” Pesticides

The guiding principle of organic is to use “ingredients” that naturally exist.

And the target -at the same time- is obviously to get the biggest possible harvest. And therefore necessarily to reduce the negative impact of weeds, fungi, insects, diseases, etc. But anyway, the purpose of an insecticide or antifungal is to kill life, or to disable; its “natural” character does not make it harmless or less harmful or more biodegradable by definition. Although one may want to believe otherwise …

Concerning “organic” pesticides … first of all, they are certainly molecules that exist in their natural state. But like some poisons. Organic -cotton or otherwise- has the right to use a defined list of them. And the reality is that they are not necessarily better for the environment or health. This Canadian study has shown it.

In Europe, the use of copper sulphate is still allowed for lack of alternative. Although it is relatively toxic, not biodegradable and therefore accumulates in the soil. The impact on the long term have not been studied and are therefore unknown.

The fact that a Pyrethrin (a toxic molecule secreted by certain plants) is naturally extracted or reconstituted in a laboratory does not change its dangerousness.

Then there is the classic issue of information: because they are extremely used and dangerous, chemical pesticides are very well studied and documented. They can therefore be criticised, and rightly so. Organic agents are much less evaluated. This may lead one to believe that it is better, but the reality is that there is much less data, and especially fewer serious studies. And that we are taken short (copper sulphate), we have no alternative.

Finally, many (universities / institutes / …) are working on alternatives that could be both more effective and environmentally friendly.

Organic versus Yields

The notion of yield is simple: in organic farming, we use less consumables, but we also produce less per hectare. So to produce as much, you need more land … where you also need water, treatments, equipment, etc.

After that, strictly speaking, being organic does not mean that you use less water or energy. Non-organic cotton producers can also reduce their consumption, it may even be in their interest to do so, to reduce their production costs. In fact, those who don’t do it, it’s usually because they don’t have the means to buy the equipment that would allow them to do it. Or because they are too small. Or they are not well informed. Or they work in a place that does not allow it, or does not make it necessary. Because let’s not kid ourselves: the sellers of chemicals are sometimes unscrupulous, promising the moon on yields, knowing that they will not be held accountable for the damage caused.

More technically, there are studies on what uses the least amount of resources to make 1kg of cotton; as for quality, you can read everything and its opposite. Logically (see previous point on the impossibility of objective studies), there are the same debates between organic and sustainable agriculture, and others. Basically, it depends on too many parameters. But beyond organic/non-organic, the big problems are the excesses, the lack of regulations, the lack of controls, the political and economic weight of agriculture, the lack of information and training for farmers, the need for people to survive in certain countries.

Organic cotton does not mean quality.

As far as food is concerned, on unprocessed things (fruit and vegetables in particular) organic is more expensive, but it is also more often better tasting. And moreover, it has a better nutritional value. So there is an extra cost but also a clear and tangible gain, almost immediately.

For cotton, the logic is different. Ideally, what we are looking for is whiteness, strength and fibre length. For industrial use. In short, it has to grow. And to get that, you need a lot of sun, a lot of water, fertilisers, good farming practices, etc. Many parameters are not directly linked to organic farming.

Let’s take a simple illustration: if you compare an organic vegetable and its conventional counterpart, the latter will be … bigger. In the conventional sector, you are free to do what you need to do to obtain the best quality for an industrial quality. Even at the top end of the market. In organic farming, this is less obvious, particularly in terms of compensating for climatic “stress” (too hot / too cold, too dry / too wet, instability, etc.), and their indirect consequences such as the proliferation of insects, moulds, diseases, etc.

Finally, as we will see later, a major point about organic cotton is the cost of labour. And where it is cheapest, it is not necessarily where the natural conditions are most optimal.

asy to “cheat” on the quality of organic clothing

When it comes to organic, somehow, most are ready to pay say 20% more. On the seller’s side, it’s different, the margin matters.

In the case of organic food, you buy it, eat it within a few days, make up your mind immediately, and if it’s not good, you buy something else the next time. The penalty is immediate.

In the case of a garment, if it is of poorer quality, this may only become apparent after a few uses, and therefore a few weeks or even months. The judgment will be less clear-cut. You have time to forget, it’s more dilute.

There are many ways to “cheat” (i.e. compromise on quality at your expense):

  • Mention “organic cotton” without independent external certification
  • Take a lower quality fibre, on the basis of strength or fibre length;
  • Make / use a lower quality yarn or weave.
  • Colours that are less vibrant or fade quickler … or that use cheaper dyes because harmful to the environment
  • Reduce thickness / amount of material
  • Or mix it all up to make it less visible.

At my humble level, I note that “organic” fabrics (except GOTS), although expensive, are often more “coarse”, in colour, fineness and strength. Is this a good thing when it comes to the environment? Just for just few added cents in cost?

Organic cotton is also linked to forced or slave labour

The reduced use of machinery – in order not to pollute the fields – is compensated by an increased use of labour.

To reduce this extra cost, organic cotton farms are placed where labour is cheap and workable (because they are in survival mode). Or forced. Based on figures published by the Chinese themselves, the independent institute Newlines estimated that between 500,000 and 700,000 workers are forced to work in Xinjiang, only for cotton cultivation.

Considering the threats on their brand and equity, and the appeals related to the situation of Uyghurs, after having closed their eyes for a long time on the working conditions in Xinjiang, some major brands and retailers have withdrawn (H&M, Uniqlo, Nike, …). Beyond being themselves partly boycotted by the Chinese, they have difficulties to find organic cotton … . Knowing that organic cotton from India is rather considered less reliable or more random.

Morality

Major world producers for cotton are: China and India (cc 6 million tons – 30% each); then the US (cc 3.5M – 17%), then Pakistan (2.4 – 11%), Brazil (1.4 – 7%), Uzbekistan (5%)..

For organic cotton, it’s India (51%), China (17%), Kirgizstan (10%), Turkey (10%), Tadjikistan (5%), Tanzania (2%), and USA (2%).

There is something absurd about buying organic cotton from Xinjiang, Tanzania or Uzbekistan for the American market rather than American organic cotton, isn’t there? Unless man wants the American soil to be more polluted than the ones of those countries? In the same way for Europe, the closest organic cotton could be preferred (Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, …)

Increasing organic, or at least all things eco-responsible, is necessarily an excellent initiative, which should be supported as much as possible.

In the case of organic cotton, there is unfortunately a lack of transparency and objectivity.

This doubt can be erased or greatly diminished. Some suggestions:

  • Look after brands and retailers that are totally transparent (on the exact places of culture and production, certifications, etc.), and that communicate on their own results (and not on statistics from elsewhere). As an illustration, what C&A is doing is very commendable.  Here is their last sustainability report.
  • Compare prices and quality between organic and conventional players
  • Look after GOTS fabrics
  • Look at the small brands, often more precise and more transparent

And in any case, be careful, it is unfortunately full of false assertions.

The Oeko-Tex Label

Oeko-Tex Labels

There are in fact 3 Oeko-Tex labels:

  • Oeko-Tex standard 100, for textiles
  • Oeko-Tex Leather standard for leather
  • Oeko-Tex made in green.

The first two concern the absence of harmful substances in the product alone. They do not concern the manufacturing conditions.

The 3rd one concerns the implementation of good practices and improvement plans, re. the environment and working conditions, and only at the manufacturing level (growing conditions for plants and breeding conditions for animals are not included).

Oeko-Tex 100 and Leather

In simple terms, this is equivalent to no remaining harmful chemical residue.

Oeko-Tex standard 100 and Leather Standard are 2 labels certifying the near absence of harmful substances on a textile or leather product, including accessories (zipper, button, …), and for any use (clothing, decoration, …). On the other hand, Oeko-Tex does not prohibit nor consider their use at all during the manufacturing process.

It is an Austrian initiative, quickly joined by Germany and then Switzerland.

About 100 substances (including their derivatives) are audited, and the full list can be found in this document, in Annex 4 (page 23-27). It contains substances that are known to be toxic or disruptive (e.g. phthalates), but also others that are potentially toxic (i.e. questionable).

The acceptable thresholds vary depending on whether it is a baby garment or not, worn next to the skin or not, or a purely decorative accessory. This means that it is more or less “free of potentially harmful substances”, but with a logic that totally makes sense.

The analyses are carried out according to standardised methods, in a dozen accredited and totally independent laboratories. They are commissioned by the applicants.

The label is only awarded if all the criteria are met, and this applies to every component of the garment. If an element (e.g. a button) accounts for less than 1% of the total weight and cannot be analysed according to the agreed method, Oeko-Tex decides unilaterally what should be done (different analysis or rejection).

Evaluation and pretense

The positives:

  • Oeko-tex guarantees the almost total absence of harmful substances in a textile or leather.
  • It is an obligation of results
  • The scope of the analyses is remarkable, and goes far beyond most of the laws and standards applicable in different countries of the world
  • Oeko-Tex is transparent. Whether we are talking about criteria, certified products or brands, everything is available for anyone to consult. For freee. In contrast, you have to pay to read any European or Iso norm.

Questionable points:

  • The name (oeko-tex) is very ambiguous: it suggests eco-responsible, while it has nothing to do with Ecology.
  • it is a blank check for bad practices: a factory that rejects its cleaning water in a river can manufacture clothes that will be Oeko-tex. A polyester, manufactured by definition from exhaustible resources, and polluting in an invisible way with each washing, can be Oeko-tex, …
  • I have not seen a method of standardising the sampling that is tested. Ideally, it should be random and unannounced, not at the applicant’s discretion;

Finally, be aware that Oeko-Tex is not a quality label at all. It is about clean and safe.

Oeko-Tex Made in Green

Oeko-Tex Made in Green certifies the implementation of good practices in 2 main areas:

  • working conditions
  • environmental impacts

Guiding Principles of Made in Green

Basically, Oeko-Tex Made in Green does not work on the principle of white list / black list; it rather about the process to steadily increase the white, well manage the grey well, and reduce the black, all in a “reasonable” way. As an illustration, child labor is not formally prohibited by Oeko-Tex, and if it exists, it must be gradually reduced.

Overall, these are obligations of means, but there are also obligations of results (the maximum content of certain molecules is limited in the air, discharged water and sludge, waste). With performance requirements and tests by certified laboratories.

The basis is often compliance with legal and regulatory requirements (e.g. 15 years for child labor). Or what is generally considered as the good practice.

The detailed scope of the certification is extremely broad.

Assessments are made from documents, and through question and answer sessions.

The level of achievement on the whole leads, or not, to one of the 3 following certifications (1 being the lowest):

  1. 70% of basic points are met
  2. 34% of advanced points are met
  3. 67% of advanced points are met

Concrete Explanations

To make it more concrete … …

There are 6 perimeters which are audited and evaluated

  • Chemicals Management
  • Environmental performance (water and energy consumption, water and air emissions, waste management, etc.)
  • Environmental management (importance in the company’s project, processes / resources put in place to improve, …)
  • Social responsibility / Working conditions
  • Quality (everywhere, not just products)
  • Health and Safety (of the company, production site, the employees, …)

As an illustration, as far as chemical products are concerned, what is mainly targeted is the control of risks, i.e.:

  • local regulations are applied
  • they know why they use this product and not that one;
  • they measure precisely what goes in, and pilot how each “gram” is used;
  • the risks for the environment, the site itself, and the people are known and controlled by solidly established practices
  • there are actions and plans to improve recycling, or for the transition to a “greener” chemistry

Etc.

In terms of working conditions, this will concern forced labor, the freedom to form a union, the existence of work contracts, …. and will go, for example, up to the presence of toilets in sufficient quality and quantity for the employees.

If we talk about waste / discharges, there are objectives to be reached on acidity, unwnated molecules in dust, nitrogen oxides discharges into the air (vs. acid rain, greenhouse effect, …), or sulfur, phosphorus, etc.

Factually, it is very very broad

And in fact, if a company has a good level of performance on cc. 2/3 of all these points, it is necessarily the fruit of a real valuable in-depth work.

Evaluation and pretense

The positives:

Oeko-Tex made in Green clearly certifies a very good, and possibly excellent level of natural and social environmental protection.

Questionable points and fallacies

  • cultivation and breeding, and more generally everything related to raw materials, all this is totally excluded.
  • everything is documentary, the on-site audit is not mandatory. The issue here is that, in some countries, everything can be bought.
  • There is no blacklist, and it is a blank check for practices that can be judged as unacceptable or incompatible with the protection of the environment or the respect of human rights.

On the social level, as already mentioned, child labor is not a blocking point to be Oeko-Tex. The same goes for forced labor). These are simply criterias among others.

From an environmental point of view, a GMO product can be made in green or Oeko-Tex 100. Most viscoses are produced with carbon disulfide (CS2), which is a highly toxic solvent; and they can be Oeko-tex. According to the Oeko-Tex documentation, the use if molecules like CS2 must be limited or excluded if there are alternatives; these exist now, however …. Similarly, a viscose obtained from raw material (trees) issued from deforestation can be Oeko-Tex. And so on.

How to Check?

Any mention of Oeko-Tex must be accompanied by an identifying number.

Enter this identification reference on this page will enable you to check if it is genuine and still valid.

The GOTS label

The “GOTS” label (Global Organic Textile Standard) stands for “organic textile”, and not only for the material / fibre. It is an independent certification that guarantees a production which is completely respectful of the environment for everything that is based on natural fibres (cotton, linen, hemp, wool… Leather is not included). There are two thresholds for organic content (70% and 95%), with synthetic content limited to a maximum of 10% (with certain exceptions when necessary). Beyond that, the whole production chain is optimised at all levels: toxicity, recyclability, use of consumables, carbon footprint, working conditions, etc.

It is a label launched in 2006, after 4 years of study, by 4 associations (German, Japanese, American and Scottish), which has become the only reference standard for ecological textiles in many countries.

It concerns natural fibres and hairs, i.e. linen, cotton, hemp and wool.

Some elements of the label:

  • At the manufacturing level:
    • Strict evaluation of all inputs in terms of toxicity, recyclability and disposability;
    • Total ban on heavy metals, formaldehyde, aromatic and halogenated solvents, nanoparticles, GMOs and their enzymes, surfactants, plasticisers, etc.
  • At the Responsibility / Traceability level
    • Written rules
    • Clear and identified Responsibilities
    • Improvement targets on energy and supplies
    • Monitoring of Results
  • Wastewater:
    • Compliance with regulations on acidity, chemical residues, etc.
  • Etc.

To meet such high standards, there must be a commitment from the company, but also that it generates sustainable margins for them, and value for customers. Some GOTS fabrics are really SUPER NICE in terms of quality. And in such a case, one can be happy to pay more, as it is superior in many ways, without being inferior anywhere.

Finally, beware, some vendors claim to be GOTS without being certified. On the other hand, GOTS lists all certified actors.

 

To check if a given player is GOTS

Eco-responsible (non-organic) cotton – Why it is very important to support them too

First of all, it is important to realise that cotton is mainly grown in poor or developing countries. The training of an ‘average’ farmer is particularly far from that provided by best universities. It is understandable that they have doubts or show little interest when an association proposes to reduce their consumption of fertilisers. And that they are more seduced by the salesmen of agrochemical groups promising better yields.

Before becoming organic, a farmer has to wait generally 3 years, 3 years when his production has the costs of organic, without the additional income of organic. With, as always in agriculture, the risk of a climatic misfortune.

For a farmer, going from conventional to organic is a difficult, risky and costly choice. It is hard to imagine. Even more so in a poor or developing country.

A first step is to learn good practices. You have to implement them and then master them, what takes time. Before you see the results, only at the next year’s harvest; then confirming things the following year.

On the consumer/customer side, accepting a more eco-responsible cotton is also helping to make the first step. It may not be organic, the “concept” is clearly “fuzzier”, but it is necessary to encourage these first steps, which condition the rest. Especially in the absence of restrictive local regulations. More concretely, the aim is to reduce consumption of water, insecticides, synthetic fertilisers, etc. and at the same time develop the use of alternatives. Clearly, it is also about increasing income and yields. Further on, women’s work (and thus independence) … reduce and then stop child labour. And so on.

Here is a list of non-profit organisations that are helping to make cotton more responsible:

  • Better Cotton – this is about more responsible cottons, in terms of health/environment/social/income.
  • CmiA – Cotton made in Africa – Specific programme for Africa, with the same objectives
  • Cotton Connect – same thing, but with a focus on the organisation of the sector, between the different players, customers, suppliers, …
  • Fair Trade – The aim is to pay the farmer a fair wage. This can enable him to survive, live, or develop better.

All these organisations communicate their results.

It is clear that their recent action has been handicapped by covid.

You shouldn’t turn away just because it’s not organic.

Conclusions

Basically, organic or generally eco-responsible / susainable food is both better for the environment and our health, and more expensive.

On the other hand, everyone can make a few small, relevant steps, even beyond the labels (reduce poly. purchases, favour sustainable quality, invest in basics in eco-responsible and sustainable quality, minimise impulse purchases, etc.).

It is important for everyone to make choices according to their convictions, their needs and also their financial means. And to ask ourselves what kind of world we want to leave to our children.

women's obi belt / wrap belt / waist belt, with a gold and taupe floral pattern, accented with red and pink berries on black background
Flat elastic Headband, for women or girls, handmade with a Japanese cotton crepe (called chirimen), association various patterns (cranes, floral, geometric), and various colors (navy, rust / burnt orange, ochre yellow, beige, taupe).
women's obi belt / wrap belt / waist belt, with a gold and taupe floral pattern, accented with red and pink berries on black background
Flat elastic Headband, for women or girls, handmade with a Japanese cotton crepe (called chirimen), association various patterns (cranes, floral, geometric), and various colors (navy, rust / burnt orange, ochre yellow, beige, taupe).

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *