Certification: making sense of fabric labels – Part 1

Happy New Year – and welcome back to the elemental studio fortnightly blog.

I want to return to a subject explored in my November blogs. If you read these, you’ll know I recommended certain fabric materials – and laid out which ones I think should be avoided. But what about Certification?

We all know that industry bodies have a nasty habit of stamping approvals which are worth less than zero, or tell only part of the story. Any website can add a spurious logo, award or dubious form of accreditation. That makes decisions tricky, so in this and my next blog I’ll run through the labels you can trust.

The first point to make is that there are different types of certification. Some cover how the fabric was produced, in terms of organic or not, energy used, biodiversity sustained, etc. Others relate to the human element, highlighting areas like health and safety in the workplace, wages, equality and community development. True sustainability embraces both. So here’s what to look for.

The gold standard is GOTS which stands for Global Organic Textile Standard. This is fairly universally recognised as the world’s leading processing standard for textiles made from organic fibres. Importantly, it covers the entire supply chain and combines environmental and social criteria. Anything GOTS-certified includes at least 70% organic fibres and any chemical input (like dyes) have to pass stringent environmental and toxicological tests. https://www.global-standard.org

Another useful marker is the OE 100 Standard, though this only applies to products that contain 100% organic cotton. Certification means all the cotton has been grown organically and processed according to sustainability criteria. It’s not as comprehensive as GOTS though – and has no social dimension (if you come across the BCI – the Better Cotton Initiative – this fills the gap, promoting measurable improvements in environmental and social impacts of cotton cultivation). http://textileexchange.org

You can also trust any product that carries the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 label. This means all stages of production have been tested, to ensure no harmful chemicals or residues, and that the product was made in environmentally friendly conditions. Qualifying items can use a ‘Made in Green’ label, which certifies that they are free from harmful chemicals and were manufactured using environmentally-friendly processes under safe and socially responsible working conditions. https://www.oeko-tex.com/en

There are loads more labels you might encounter, so I’ll run through some others you should be able to trust, when I return to the subject in my next blog!