The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is a certification program for organically produced textiles including clothing, home textiles, and personal care products. It is managed by a nonprofit organization that receives support from the United States government. Textiles certified by GOTS are manufactured in accordance with environmentally and socially responsible criteria, from the sourcing of raw materials through their labeling, packaging, and distribution. Independent, accredited GOTS certifiers perform annual, on-site inspections of all processors, manufacturers, and traders that form part of a textile’s supply chain.
GOTS evaluates compliance according to environmental criteria, technical quality and human toxicity criteria, social/labor criteria, quality assurance, and residue testing. The inspection protocol for processors and manufacturers includes the assessment of all inputs and accessories, the sourcing the organic fiber, an analysis of the wastewater treatment system, the tracking of labor conditions, and the implementation of a residue policy based on risk assessment. In particular, wet processors must track their use of chemicals, energy, and water, as well as sludge disposal and specifications for wastewater treatment. GOTS sets limits for the toxicity and biodegradability of chemical inputs such as dyes, auxiliaries, and process chemicals, while prohibiting the use of toxic heavy metals, formaldehyde, aromatic solvents, and GMOs. Unwanted residues are also strictly regulated, and PVC is banned in packaging materials. For traders, GOTS certification is largely based on the assessment of their product flow documentation.
Those who are found to be in compliance can then work with other GOTS-compliant operations along the supply chain—final textile products may only use the GOTS label if all components and operations across the supply chain are also certified. To use the label that reads “made with organic,” a textile product must be made from at least 70-percent certified organic natural fibers, while the label “organic” requires 95 percent. Certified products and manufacturers appear on the public, online database for GOTS.