Field to Fashion – Why GOTS Delivers Sustainability

Part 1

At The Sustainable Angle we spend much of our time researching how fashion’s environmental impact can be lowered through textile innovation, and novel ideas to transform the fashion system and design practice. Certifications and standards play a hugely important part in the monitoring and transparency of these innovations and textile practices. Today we are talking to Christopher Stopes the UK Representative for The Global Organic Textile Standard GOTS. You will find hundreds of GOTS certified fabrics in the Future Fabrics Expo 25-26th January in London, as well as a preview of a selection of these fabrics in our Future Fabrics Virtual expo available 24hrs online here.

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TSA: Can you provide an outline of GOTS’ aims?

GOTS: The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) aims to be the comprehensive ecological and social standard for the entire textile supply chain based on the use of certified organic fibres. It is the gold standard for sustainable organic textiles.

Organically produced fibre is required in GOTS. This means that on the organic farm no GMOs, no artificial fertilisers and no agro-chemicals are used. Instead certified organic farmers use crop rotation and alternative methods of crop production.

GOTS covers textile processing, manufacture, labelling and sale of clothes and other products through to the final consumer. Permitted chemicals allowed in textile processing meet stringent criteria for environmental and human health (exceeding Greenpeace Detox requirements).

There are clear ecological and social benefits from the strict criteria in the standard. Customers can check the certification ID on a GOTS certified product in the GOTS Public Database.

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TSA: Can you tell us more about what you think the future looks like for the organic cotton market, in a world where fertile soil is becoming ever more limited and eventually required for increased food production?

GOTS: It’s really important that we look after our soils and that means fostering natural cycles. Organic farming produces cotton and other fibres in a way that helps protect the environment and enhance biodiversity. The demand for organic cotton is growing steadily as more and more people realise the social and environmental problems with GM and pesticide based cotton. Organic cotton farming depends on crop rotation including food crops, so small farmers benefit from better food security – something that can be really important for them. 

TSA: With most cotton usually being grown in monocultures, can smaller organic cotton farms ever grow enough cotton to replace what is currently grown in intensive agriculture?

GOTS: The other way of thinking about that question is whether we can afford to go on as we are! We are consuming cotton too freely, for fast fashion – where we throw away our clothes without a second thought. There is a huge challenge ahead about rethinking our consumption – of food, and fashion, and many other things. Thinking that we can rely on conventional intensive monocultures is old thinking. We can produce enough if we produce with the principals of health, care, ecology and fairness – we just have to look after what we produce!

TSA: Can you describe your favourite encounter with an organic cotton farmer or other hands-on-experience while working for GOTS?

GOTS: One of the most inspiring things about organic cotton farming is the stories from small farmers for whom organic production has meant that they can free themselves from the dependency on dangerous pesticides and grow organic cotton and food crops in rotation so helping to feed their families. I love the three great stories from farmers in China, India and Benin in the Soil Association Report Organic Cotton Helps to Feed the World. They really show how organic cotton can make a difference. 

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