A question I receive on a regular basis and for good reason.
So let's break down the different certifications and what they mean for organic clothing that is made in the USA such as CastleWare Baby.
What is the GOTS certification and why is it important?
GOTS certification system is relatively new. The starting point for the development of the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) was the Intercot Conference 2002 in Düsseldorf (Germany). It took four more years before the certification system was launched in 2006. And another two years for the launch of the GOTS manual for implementation.
This marked the beginning of a harmonized organic textile standard that would be globally recognized. Up until this point, there were numerous different standards that made it difficult for the international exchange and recognition of organic textiles.
Since 2006, the GOTS certification has gained universal recognition and has become the leading standard for processing of organic textiles using organic fibers.
What is OEKO-TEX Standard 100 and why is it important?
The international OEKO-Tex association was founded in Switzerland in 1992 in direct response to growing concern over product safety.
Toxins on some textiles can potentially harm your health through breathing, skin contact and saliva. STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX, certifies that the product has been tested for harmful substances. Products that carry the OEKO-TEX label have been tested for over 100 harmful chemicals that are known to be harmful to both humans and the environment.
OEKO-TEX Standard is a global standard and companies that apply for the Standard do so voluntarily. The criteria for the Standard are reviewed and updated yearly.
OEKO-TEX Standard 100 Product Classes
Since the Standard 100 encompasses a huge amount of products and components that have to be evaluated according to intended use, OKEO-TEX developed 4 product classes in order to categorize products from very sensitive to lower risk.
Babies and toddlers. This is the most sensitive group and therefore highly regulated and strictly tested. This class carries additional testing for color bleeding and saliva resistance.
Products that come in direct contact with the skin such as underwear and socks.
Outerwear products such as jackets and belts.
Home textiles such as upholstery and table linens.
OKEO-TEX Standard 100 Is Not An Organic Certification
With garments that carry a OKEO-TEX Standard 100 label, you can be sure that all of the components have been tested for harmful substances and therefore the garment is harmless to human health.
By contrast, The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certifies the processing of raw materials. It is the standard for organic fibers, including an ecological and social criteria. It is backed up by independent third-party certification of the entire textile supply chain.
A textile product carrying the GOTS label must contain a minimum of 70% certified organic fibers, a product with the label grade grade 'organic' must contain a minimum of 95% certified organic fibers.
GOTS Label Certifies More Than Just the Cotton Fiber
In order for a garment to carry a GOTS label, every step of the manufacturing process must be performed by a GOTS certified facility. This includes spinning, knitting and weaving, wet processing such as dying, and garment cutting and sewing. Facilities are assessed for everything from chemical inputs to the ethical treatment of workers.
This complete fiber to finish certification process is very important for garments produced overseas in developing countries where labor and environmental abuses are commonplace and widespread.
CastleWare Baby Fabrics and American Standards for Health And Safety
All fabrics that are manufactured in the United States, including CastleWare Baby fabrics, have to be produced under the safety guidelines and regulations set forth by the following Federal government agencies:
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), regulates the sale and manufacture of consumer products, and ultimately certifies a fabric as compliant and approved for sale in the United States, in accordance with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). The CPSIA compliance certification ensures that the products you use every day have met the most stringent, comprehensive American health and safety standards.
Fabrics made or sold in America must not only meet CPSIA requirements, but manufacturing must comply with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), which makes them even more rigorous than the OEKO-TEX test criteria.
In addition to these Federal regulations, the manufacturing process of CastleWare Baby fleece and baby rib fabrics is also regulated by California’s Proposition 65 since these fabrics are made in Los Angeles.
Proposition 65, officially known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, was enacted as a ballot initiative in November 1986. The proposition protects the state's drinking water sources from being contaminated with chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. (Source)
California also has the most comprehensive employee rights and protection laws in the union and the minimum hourly wage is more than twice the Federal minimum wage.
CastleWare Baby Fabrics and Globally Recognized Health and Safety Certifications
Unlike most other countries in the world, the United States has in place its own system for rigorous compliance and testing for harmful substances as listed above. In addition to being fully compliant with the US regulations, the facility that processes and dyes the yarn for our fabrics, also carries the OKEO-Tex Standard 100 certification for global compliance.
OKEO-TEX certifies the safety and “cleanliness” of the finished yarn and dyes but GOTS certified that the yarn was made with organically grown and processed cotton fibers. Therefore, our fabrics carry both globally recognized certifications in addition to Federal and State compliance.
The Social Component of GOTS Labeling Requirements
It’s no secret that the majority of organic cotton clothing brands for babies and kids are made overseas in China, India and Bangladesh where labor abuses are common and well documented. In order to ensure that garments that carry the GOTS label are made in facilities where abuses are not taking place. GOTS requires compliance in working and social conditions that are equivalent to those of leading social sustainability standards. GOTS social criteria, based on the key norms of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), must be met by all processors, manufacturers and traders. They must have a social compliance management system, with defined elements in place to ensure that the social criteria are met. (Source)
Some of the sections from social criteria under GOTS version 6.0 are
- Employment is freely chosen
- Freedom of association and collective bargaining
- Child labour shall not be used
- No discrimination is practiced
- Occupational health and safety (OHS)
- No harassment and violence
- Remuneration and assessment of living wage gap
- Working time
- No precarious employment is provided
- Migrant workers
GOTS Certified Labor Standards
While GOTS is a highly respected certifying body and does a pretty good job with transparency in their ecological criteria, the social criteria has come under criticism for not being far reaching enough. Case in point is that they only require garment workers to be paid the legal minimum wage rather than a living wage.
A 2019 investigation by the The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) found in 43 out of 45 companies surveyed, no evidence that at least some of the workers were paid a living wage. As an example the CCC sets the living wage in Bangladesh at five times higher than what the law requires.
CastleWare Baby Labor Standards In The USA
CastleWare Baby garments are cut and sewn in a facility located in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan that is disabled veteran owned. The facility is NOT GOTS certified because they manufacture many other non-organic lines as well. This type of set up is the norm in the United States since there are so few organic cotton clothing lines manufactured in the US.
Even though the facility produces conventional clothing as well as our organic cotton garments, the items are not processed side-by-side. CastleWare Baby garments are sewn and packaged in isolation from all other lines in a sealed room. This ensures that our products are free from contamination from airborne dust from other conventional manufacturing projects.
Our Detroit facility pays the men and women who cut and sew CastleWare Baby garments between $15- $20 per hour. In addition they receive full medical, optical and dental benefits. Paid personal and vacation days start accruing after a 6 month probationary period.
So when customers ask. “Are your products GOTS certified?” I tell them the fabric is GOTS certified and the dyes are OEKO-TEX certified. The finished product is not GOTS certified since it is made in the USA in a non certified sewing facility that pays their employees a living wage and provides benefits and paid vacations.
By ensuring that the cotton we use is organically grown and the dyes are OEKO-TEX certified, we are doing our part to ensure the health and safety of our children and grandchildren as well as protecting our priceless water and topsoil.
By providing living wage jobs in the US we are doing our part to support our friends and neighbors and contribute to the future of our country by paying into the social security program.