We have prepared an overview of sustainable certificates, which can be an important helper when choosing a textile. You will learn about the most well-known and recognised certificates that can be found amongst the products on our offer. We will explain how they differ from each other and how to orientate yourself while making a choice.
If we want to choose a product that we can be sure is safe to our health, its production has not had devastating effects on nature, and it was made in good working conditions with a fair wage for employees, we can quickly find that it is not easy at all. Before the textile reaches us, it will go a very long way from cultivation, through processing to final finishing. During each of these phases, it is influenced by countless factors, and its production itself also affects its surroundings.
It is therefore not an easy task to make sure that the result of the product is truly sustainable. If you are not an adventurer who is determined to go on a long journey and get to know every detail of the production of, for example, one cotton T-shirt, do not be in despair. There are certification companies that regularly undertake this mission for you and check compliance with ecological and ethical production procedures.
Certifications for products bring us closer to the methods of their production,
so we can easily choose what we want to support with our purchase.
However, certifications are diverse, so before choosing a textile, it is advisable to study what each of them focuses on and what it guarantees. We can divide them into several categories according to their targeting of a certain part of the production process. For simplification, we divide them into the following 5 aspects:
organic │recycled │production│ social │ animals
• Organic material – use of organically grown material
• Recycled material – use of material produced by recycling
• Production – environmentally friendly production processes, minimizing negative impacts on the environment
• Social – an ethical and fair approach towards employees and communities
• Animals – non-abuse of animals, products without animal ingredients
Since some certifications deal with only one of these categories, you will always find the corresponding indication assigned to each certificate below.
While choosing a truly sustainable textile, we must not forget that it is important to consider its sustainability in all aspects of the production process. For example, if a product is labelled as organic, it means that it has been grown without harmful chemicals and with respect to natural resources such as soil and water. However, the effects of the subsequent processing of the material, as well as the working conditions for employees, are no longer monitored in any way, and therefore we cannot be sure that the textile has not been dyed with toxic dyes etc. Similarly, for certifications that focus only on fair wages for workers, we certainly know nothing about, for example, the method of cultivation and the impact on our health and nature.
At the beginning, it may take a few minutes to navigate between certifications, but when we realise that it is about our health, our society and our planet, as well as our conscious decisions about what products and methods of their production we want to support, we can see it is really worth it 😊
And to make it a little easier for you, we have prepared an overview of the best known and most recognised certifications, which you will also find on the products on our offer:
GOTS - Global Organic Textile Standard
GOTS is one of the world's strictest certifications, which ensures standards for textile processing, especially organic fibre. In order to be GOTS certified, manufacturers must undergo regular inspections by independent certification bodies and meet the requirements of ecological and ethical practices throughout the production process from cultivation, processing to printing and finalisation.
The GOTS criteria for textile are mainly related to the proportion of organic fibres, sustainable production processes and responsible management of natural resources and waste. The use of hazardous chemicals throughout the production process, whether in form of harmful pesticides during the cultivation or toxic inks during the subsequent processing, is prohibited. GOTS also sets requirements for the safety of the working environment and fair salaries for workers (1).
In the spring of 2021, GOTS moved to the 6.0 level, once again tightening the criteria for granting and maintaining the certificate. You can read more about the general and new requirements in our article GOTS version 6.0.
The standard has two levels:
- Textile made of at least 95% organic fibres (the remaining 5% or less may be fibres of inorganic origin) are marked "organic" on the label.
- If the textile is made of at least 70% organic fibres (the remaining 30% or less may be fibres of inorganic origin), it is marked on the label as "made with [x]% organic materials".
You can easily verify the validity of the certificate at any time on the GOTS website, where you enter the manufacturer's license number. In addition to the organic fibre content and the manufacturer's license number, each label must also bear the certification body.
As the only textile printer in Slovakia and Czechia, we at MERCHYOU are also GOTS certified. We not only offer GOTS certified textile and printing, but also all our production processes and procedures are regularly inspected and meet the strict ecological and ethical GOTS standards. Are you interested in what specific sustainable steps we are taking in our production? See the article Our sustainable production.
OCS - Organic Cotton Standard
OCS is an international certificate that focuses on compliance with ecological procedures in the cultivation of organic material. It guarantees that the material of which the product is made comes from certified organic farms and strives to ensure that the organic content retains its identity during the next stages of the production process. Compliance with OCS requirements is checked by independent certification authorities (2).
OCS distinguishes between two types of certification:
- Textile marked OCS 100 contain 95-100% organic fibres which cannot be mixed with conventional material of the same type.
- The label marked OCS Blended indicates a product that contains 5-95% organic fibres. The rest of the content can also be a conventional material of the same type.
The OEKO-TEX standard is divided into two standards, namely STANDARD 100 and LEATHER STANDARD (for leather goods). A product that complies with at least one of the standards may be labelled as "MADE IN GREEN". This label ensures that the textile in question has been tested for harmful substances, met safety criteria and has been produced using sustainable production methods, in socially responsible working conditions for employees and in a transparent manner (3).
RCS - Recycled Claim Standard
RCS is an international certification for recycled material products. It seeks to increase the use of recycling in input materials and sets environmental and social requirements in production. In textile, RCS monitors the content of recycled material, requires the minimization of waste and prohibits the use of harmful chemicals (4). However, the RCS does not cover the environmental impacts of production or social responsibility.
Like OCS, RCS is divided into two levels of certification:
- RCS 100 textile contains 95-100% recycled material. Mixing with conventional material of the same type is not permitted.
- The RCS Blended label indicates a product that contains 5-95% recycled material. And the rest of the contents can be conventional material of the same type.
GRS - GLOBAL RECYCLE STANDARD
GRS certification is very similar to RCS, it also seeks to increase the share of recycled material in the textile industry and sets requirements for the minimum content of recycled fibres. GRS certified products must contain 50-100% recycled material.
However, unlike RCS, GRS also controls the environmental and social impacts of textile production. The standard sets out requirements for environmentally friendly manufacturing practices in order to protect the environment. Monitoring and recording of all production steps, resource consumption and waste management is required. The use of hazardous chemicals is prohibited.
Manufacturers must also have a social policy in place and regularly demonstrate that they provide their workers with a safe working environment and adequate salaries. The standard prohibits the use of hazardous chemicals during the production (5).
The Fair Wear Foundation is a non-profit organisation that aims to improve working conditions for employees in the fashion industry. It supports the creation and maintenance of safe, dignified and fairly paid jobs. It prohibits child labour, discrimination and forced work. The Fair Wear Foundation regularly inspects the activities and production conditions of member brands and conducts safety inspections and interviews with workers. At the same time, it provides them with training programs for continuous improvement (6).
Fairtrade certification focuses on fair working and business conditions for farmers, employees and craftsmen, especially from countries in Africa, South America and Asia. The certification guarantees that the product has been manufactured in decent working conditions and for a fair and living wage. Fairtrade monitors respect for human and labour rights, good business conditions and the prohibition of child and forced labour. It also seeks more prudent access to natural resources and bans the use of dangerous pesticides that can have negative effects on human health. In addition to cotton, the Fairtrade mark can also be found on food items such as tea, coffee, cocoa, bananas, etc. (7).
WRAP – Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production
WRAP is a global certification that focuses on the textile and footwear industries. Through regular inspections, compliance with social and ethical regulations are monitored. The certification guarantees that the products are manufactured in safe working conditions for employees and that they are treated with respect. The assessment criteria are based on 12 WRAP principles, such as the prohibition of forced and child labour, adequate salaries, reasonable working hours and ensuring a safe and healthy working environment. According to the degree of fulfilment of 12 principles, WRAP distinguishes three certification levels, namely platinum, gold and silver (8).
PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is an international non-profit organisation dedicated to shaping and upholding the rights of all animals. It provides education, research and organises events that raise awareness of the effects of certain human activities on animals. It supports the idea that animals also have the right to live their own lives without abuse in experiments or the production of food, clothing and entertainment. PETA-certified brands undertake that no animal tests are carried out during the production of their products, and never will be in the future (9).
BSCI – Business Social Compliance Initivative
BSCI is an initiative of the FTA - Foreign Trade Association, which supports the creation and maintenance of ethical and safe conditions at the workplace, respect for human and labour rights, fair salaries and transparency in the supply chain. The BSCI Code of Conduct is verified by audits of amfori BSCI (10).
It is not easy to see and understand the real impact of the products we buy on our health, nature and other people. However, certifications are a great tool that can give us a closer look at the story of our textile. If we know what individual certifications guarantee, we can make much more informed decisions thanks to them.
Take a look at our catalogue, where you can easily search for GOTS, Fair Wear or Fairtrade certified products, or products made of organic and recycled materials.
Our shopping behaviour matters. Thank you for choosing products responsibly! ♥
GOTS version 6.0
- OCS – Textile Exchange
OCS – Guide to the OCS
Textile Exchange – Standards Claims Policy
- RCS and GRS – Textile Exchange
RCS 2.2 Implementation Manual
Textile Exchange – Standards Claims Policy
- RCS and GRS – Textile Exchange
GRS 4.2 Implementation Manual
Textile Exchange – Standards Claims Policy
- FAIR WEAR FOUNDATION
- PETA-Approved Vegan