- 19th November 2020
What are certifications?
An accreditation or certification, while slightly different are both ways by which a third party or authoritative body will confirm that a business or product complies with, and meets the standards that the third party or body expect in order to be awarded the certification or accreditation.
For example, complying with the fair treatment of workers or ensuring that no harmful materials are used in the supply chain of the product.
So, if a company or a product has an accreditation or certification. Then you can be sure it meets all the standards of the awarding organisation.
Why are they important?
Accreditations and certifications are important because they reassure the consumer that a company is doing what they say they are doing or that a product lives up to the claims made about it. It helps the consumer to spot things like greenwashing or companies making false claims about their practises or products because an accreditation or certification verifies what they are claiming.
They hold businesses accountable for their actions and mean that they are upholding standards because they will be periodically audited by the awarding organisation. They cannot cleverly market their products to seem better or greener than they are. An accreditation is easy to obtain for companies actually doing what they claim to do.
Accreditations or certifications will have a publicly available list of requirements that can be searched if you are curious about what a particular one means or involves.
General Cotton Certifications
For clarity we have split the list into two sections: general cotton certifications and organic certifications.
The OEKO-TEX label has several certifications that certify a textile or leather product, organisation, or supplementary products used in the supply chain are completely free from harmful chemicals and safe for human use.
Fairtrade certified Cotton protects over 300 million farmers and cotton workers. Fairtrade aims to support these individuals through guaranteeing a cotton price, ensuring that they never lose out through the exploitation of buyers, and are given money to help the farmers’ community.
WRAP certify socially responsible factories in the textiles industry. They are dedicated to promoting safe, lawful, ethical, and humane manufacturing. For a factory to become WRAP compliant they must pass the 12 principles. These include; following laws and workplace regulations, no forced labour, no child labour, prohibition of harassment or abuse, compensation and benefits, fair hours of work, no discrimination, health and safety, freedom of choice to join workers associations, compliance with environmental rules, follow customs laws, and ensuring security.
The GRS is an international, voluntary, full product standard that sets requirements for third-party certification of content, chain of custody, social and environmental practices, and chemical restrictions of recycled products. With a GRS product you know that the recycled content of a product has been verified throughout the whole product supply chain.
Examples of Organic certifications to look out for.
In the UK there are two principal organic certifications to look out for. Organic Content Standard (OCS), and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).
OCS accredits the organic standard of the raw materials contained within the product. A product must contain at least 95% organic material to obtain the OCS 100 logo which is the highest percentage of organic materials of the three. However, it doesn’t address other chemicals or processes within the supply chain. For example, if a t-shirt were made from organic cotton but was dyed or decorated with non-organic processes, it could still meet OCS criteria.
GOTS Organic is a more all-encompassing certification, which considers the whole supply chain of a product. This includes using at least 70% organic fibres, ensuring that all chemicals used, like dyes, must meet their low toxicology criteria and water treatment plants must be put in place, amongst other social criteria that must also be met. In the UK, GOTS Organic products are certified by the Soil Association, so a UK based GOTS organic certified company will also be Soil Association certified.
To conclude, certifications are there to back up claims that a business makes. If it is important to you as a buyer that you’re sure of a business’ credentials, then look out for a certification mark on their products. As it is a way to ensure their claims are true as they are externally accredited. However it could be easier to research different certifications to find causes that are important to you so you can work backwards to find certified sellers and products that produce in a way you find acceptable.