Actively engaged in educating and encouraging the use of certified organic clothing in India, international eco-label Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the stringent voluntary global standard for the entire post-harvest processing (including spinning, knitting, weaving, dyeing and manufacturing) of apparel and home textiles made with certified organic fibre. The standard includes both environmental and social criteria. Its key provisions include: a ban on the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), hazardous chemicals (such as azo dyes and formaldehyde), and child labor, while requiring strong social compliance management systems and strict waste water treatment practices. The international eco-label serves as a third party verification tool for organic and ecological claims for textile products. Sumit Gupta, Deputy Director, Standards Development & Quality Assurance elucidates on the standard and its role in encouraging the use of organic clothing in India.
“Though traditionally, GOTS certified organic textiles were exported to first world countries, since the last few years, these textiles are being sold in India as well,” says Gupta. “In last seven years, I have interacted with over 1,000 students and educated them about GOTS and eco-labels,” he adds.
Certified label verifies sustainability claims
With a growing population of affluent middle class, Indian consumers are becoming increasingly aware about environmental and social footprints for products they buy and choices they make. “Indian retailers are weaving the concept of sustainability into their brands’ stories. A certified organic label enables retailers and consumers to make legitimate and verifiable sustainability claims on their textiles products. A GOTS label indicates the use of organic fibers alongwith a environmentally and socially responsible production process,” Gupta explains.
Applauding the various consumer education initiatives undertaken by the government, NGOs, media and brands, Gupta says, “In terms of consumer awareness India is ahead of its neighbors like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. However, it still can’t compare with a country like Germany. There is some awareness about the concept of sustainability, organic, recycled, etc. among Indian consumers. However, there remains a substantial scope for growth for certified organic textiles in India.”
Educating customers on GOTS
To increase awareness, Gupta advises brands and retailers to educate their customers. GOTS is currently working on a social media strategy and can support brands/retailers with content about organic/sustainability aspects of the standard. He also refutes the allegation that certified organic cannot be trendy. “The list of GOTS approved dyes and chemicals contain 18,000 options from more than 700 suppliers,” says Gupta. “These low impact chemicals inputs can be used to impart effects such as digital printing, pigment printing, easy care finish etc. Similarly, a wide range of non-GMO accessories, permitted in GOTS (Section 184.108.40.206), can be used to impart numerous design/fashion aspects to the clothing,” he adds.
Dealing with violations
GOTS aims to deal with all brand violations stringently. The standard’s website names all companies currently under certification ban. “We encourage everyone to report the misuse of GOTS logo or reference using complaint form given on GOTS website. Consumers and buyers should look for the ‘License Number’ in GOTS Label on the product. This license number can be verified on GOTS website in Public Database,” Gupta says. GOTS certified manufacturers include almost all large-scale textile manufacturers in natural fiber domain in India. Besides, there are more than 1,000 medium and small units that are GOTS certified. These include exporters and other players in the supply chain including ginners/spinners/weavers /dyehouses and sub-contracted operations.
GOTS certified merchandise is available both online and offline channels. “However, the consumer group buying organic prefer to shop online rather than offline,” adds Gupta.