• Importing GOTS Organic Cotton Textiles from China

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    Looking for GOTS certified organic cotton manufacturers in China? Then keep reading. In this article, you will learn what GOTS is, and how you can find GOTS certified suppliers online.

    In addition, I will also explain how you can verify a GOTS certificate, and why should not assume that all cotton fabric suppliers in China are certified.

    In fact, only a small fraction are.

    What is Organic Cotton?

    By definition, organic cotton is grown using methods that leaves a smaller environmental footprint on the environment. For example, organic cotton is only defined as such if the following criteria are met:

    1. No use of toxins

    2. No use of persistent pesticides (POP)

    3. No use of chemical fertilizers

    4. No use of GMO seeds

    In the textile industry, organic cotton is the exception, not the rule. Further, the reduction of POP and chemical fertilizers reduces yields, and therefore results in higher prices.

    Hence, you should expect to pay more for organic cotton, than non-organic cotton.

    What is GOTS?

    GOTS is the acronym for Global Organic Textile Standard, which is defined as follows:

    1. Only fabrics that contain at least about 70% organic fibers can become GOTS certified

    2. All chemicals such as dyestuffs and auxiliaries used must meet certain environmental and toxicological criteria

    3. A functional wastewater treatment plant is mandatory for any wet-processing unit involved and all processors must comply with social criteria

    A supplier can be GOTS certified, if they pass a factory inspection performed by an accredited third party. There are only a handful of ‘GOTS accredited’ inspection companies with offices in China:

    • CERES GmbH
    • Control Union Certifications b.v.
    • Ecocert Greenlife

    GOTS Organic Cotton

    Can all apparel and textiles supplier offer GOTS certified organic cotton?

    No. Most textiles manufacturers cannot provide GOTS certified textiles. Further, it’s only the fabric supplier that can be GOTS certified.

    To understand why this matter, you must first know the textile industry operates.

    There are several categories of suppliers:

    a. Apparel Manufacturers (Exporter)

    This is the factory that makes the apparel. They cut fabric, stitch, label, print and pack. This is the only supplier must importers even contact.

    But, they don’t weave fabrics, or mold plastic buttons. Every single component is purchased from a subcontractor.

    Basically, they administer the procurement process, and put the product together.

    When importing GOTS certified textiles from China, this is an issue. If you don’t have direct access to the GOTS certified fabrics supplier, you cannot be sure that they actually buy from a GOTS supplier.

    b. Fabric Suppliers (Subcontractor)

    The fabric supplier normally only does one thing. They manufacture fabric rolls, that they ship to local and overseas apparel manufacturers.

    When it comes to GOTS certification, this is where the action is.

    GOTS is based on factory inspections, and the certification is issued on a ‘per company’ basis. Hence, you must make sure that your fabrics are procured from a GOTS certified fabric supplier.

    There is only one way to be sure.

    You need to select the fabric supplier, rather than letting the apparel manufacturer do it for you.

    Just keep in mind that GOTS certification is still relatively rare. You need to specifically source a certified supplier to find one. Don’t assume that every other fabrics supplier has a GOTS certificate lying around somewhere.

    c. Component Suppliers (Subcontractor)

    In addition to fabrics, apparel manufacturers also buy buttons, zippers, velcro and other parts from specialized component suppliers. This category of supplier is not affected by GOTS.

    How do I find suppliers with GOTS certified organic cotton?

    A GOTS certified supplier can provide verifiable GOTS certified, issued by one of the accredited companies.

    But don’t take the GOTS certificate at face value. Take a closer look at the following:

    a. Factory: Is the GOTS certificate held by the supplier you are contacting? Many apparel factories submit GOTS certificates from some random fabrics supplier.

    Keep in mind that most apparel factories work with multiple fabrics suppliers, and a GOTS certificate is only of use if you know who the fabric will come from.

    This is why I strongly advise you to source a GOTS certified fabric supplier instead.

    b. Issuing company: Is the issuing company on the list of accredited GOTS certification companies? If not, the certificate is not valid. The issuing company shall also be able to verify that the document is authentic.

    c. Valid until: When as the document issued? Is it still valid? GOTS Certificates expire after a certain date.

    d. Version: Is the GOTS certificate of the current version? At the time of writing, GOTS 5.0 is the latest version.

    e. Product categories: Is the product category matching your apparel?

    GOTS Certificate Sample

    GOTS certifiate sample

    How do I make sure that the fabrics are actually GOTS certified?

    You need to work directly with the source. It’s the only way to be sure. Hence, you must source GOTS certified organic cotton fabric suppliers.

    You can either let them recommend an apparel manufacturer, or find one by yourself. I recommend the latter.

    How do I know that the cotton is actually organic?

    Small businesses don’t have the resources to monitor the production process. Hence, GOTS was invented as a standardized protocol that covers up to date criteria, yearly inspections and certifications.

    All of this can only be managed by accredited bodies.

    This is of course not watertight, but it’s as good as it gets.

    Can I pay a supplier to become GOTS certified?

    GOTS is still relatively rare in China, and all other textiles producing countries for that matter. It’s not that any cotton fabrics supplier can suddenly decide that they want to be GOTS certified.

    Unless they actually meet the strict GOTS criteria, they can’t pass the inspection. No matter how much money they throw at it.

    What is the difference between REACH and GOTS?

    REACH is a substance regulation, that restricts usage of lead, cadmium and other substances in all consumer products. This also includes cotton fabrics.

    However, REACH, says nothing about how the product is made. While REACH covers POPs, it doesn’t cover GMO seeds or fertilizers.

    Hence, a non-organic product (such as a metal or plastic) can be REACH compliant – as long as it passes the lab test.

    For the record, I would assume that all GOTS certified organic cotton fabrics are REACH compliant.

    Is GOTS certification mandatory when importing organic textiles?

    No, GOTS is administered by an independent organisation. GOTS is not a regulation, or a mandatory standard, unlike REACH in the European Union.

    You are not required to import a GOTS certified textile. From a business perspective, the benefit of GOTS lies in the perceived quality and brand value of providing an authentic organic fabric.

    What is the difference between GOTS and OEKO Tex Standard 100?

    OEKO Tex Standard 100 is an independent (non-government) testing system for textiles. For example, OEKO Tex Standard 100 regulates substances and heavy metals in fabrics used in children’s clothing, adult apparel and even furniture.

    GOTS, on the other hand, is only concerned with the production stage of the fabrics, rather than the end product.

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