Updated: Mar 18, 2020
by Mitch Borger and Alex Berryman
As ethical and sustainable clothing options are becoming more prevalent in the marketplace, along with it has come to a new set jargon. Terms like 'ethical' and 'sustainable' are thrown around, but when it comes to manufacturing, what do these terms actually mean and how can consumers know the product they are receiving line up with their values?
Certifications provide a means to standardize these terms, educating consumers and manufacturers on how they can support better production practices. From 'ethical fashion' to 'organic materials', there are many fantastic organizations and communities working to clean up the supply chain, each with its own mission and focus.
We have broken down 4 of the most prevalent certifications in the industry, while this list is far from exhaustive, it does show the range of ways organizations are cleaning up supply chains.
Main focus: Chemical reduction
Taking a more holistic approach, GOTS considers the whole lifecycle of the product, from growing the materials to the working conditions in the factory.
Pesticides and chemicals can have destructive effects on surrounding communities, the environment, and the health of the end-user. With the GOTS label, a customer can know the textile product is made of a minimum of 70% organic material and has been extensively tested for the presence of harmful chemicals.
While the GOTS certification does not prohibit all chemicals from the production process, a team of GOTS investigators tests soil samples, dyes and fabric swatches for traces of harmful chemicals or pesticides. Farms, mills, and factories will be periodically visited, ensuring adequate working conditions and employee rights are being maintained. Once certification is achieved, a farm, mill or factory will be added to the GOTS certification database, thereby becoming searchable by location, type of service provided and product category.
The GOTS label has become synonymous with high standards of safety and sustainability at each level of the supply chain. This is a tremendous tool for communicating your values and building trust with your customers. In order to use the GOTS branding on your products, check out their labeling specifications here.
Main focus: Safe work conditions and workers rights
Originating in 1989, the WFTO focuses on creating fair wages and fair working conditions for farmers and workers across the globe. Specializing in social enterprises, the WFTO believes that business not only has the power to protect workers but to empower them and their communities around them. By adhering to the “10 Principles of Fair Trade”, manufacturers guarantee equitable work environments for disadvantaged people groups, providing capacity building opportunities.
Unlike other certification bodies, WFTO does not extend a certification, but a membership. To become a member, manufacturers must conduct a self-evaluation on their adherence to the 10 Principles and a WFTO auditor will conduct site visits to verify compliance. Insisting on continuous improvement, they encourage their members to achieve the best Fair Trade practices, especially as the industry evolves. Importers, brands, and retailers gain value from the credibility of the label, placed on the final product, their customers can be assured that the product was made with Fair Trade practices.