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Organic Clothing Certifications & Ethical Fashion Labels

There are many organisations, some new, some which are very well established, whose sole aim is to regulate and guarantee the integrity of the ethical clothes consumers buy. Here is a background on the organizations behind the logos.

8 Organic Clothing Certifications and Sustainable Ethical Fashion Labels to Look out for.

Organic Textiles and Raw Materials: USDA Organic and CCOF

In order to standardise and regulate organic produce, The United States Department of Agriculture formulated National Organic Program in the 90s with legislation coming into effect in the new millennium. While primarily designed to regulate the food, which must be at least 95% organic to be certified, it also covers textiles and cosmetics. One initial problem seemed to be that certification could be gained by products which, although made using organic raw materials, used chemicals and processes which were not organic in the subsequent manufacturing process.

USDA Organic

From 2011, legislation was passed tightening USDA regulations, creating even more stringent criteria covering every aspect of production: not only is the raw material (e.g. cotton, hemp, bamboo, jute, flax, wool, ramie, soy) to be certified organic, but also all products, such as dyes and finishes, used in the manufacturing process, are to be certified organic as well. This makes the whole process of gaining the USDA Organic seal a lot more stringent and comprehensive. The Organic seal is to ensure that the final product can be certified organic in compliance with governmental standards, both in the US and those abroad when exporting goods, free of chemicals which are considered harmful to the consumer and also to the environment.

USDA logo

CCOF

Californian Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), which started off in California in the early 70s and provided much of the framework for the USDA Organic legislation, is now recognized right across the US. This not for profit organization is USDA certified. Their core beliefs focus on respect and sustainability in all aspects of agriculture and farming: respect for animals, the environment, and the workers involved in the industry.

Fair Trade

In a nutshell, Fair Trade is designed to improve the lives of individuals and communities whilst ensuring good quality ethical clothing.

The concept started out in the 1940s and 50s as various concerned groups attempted to support and sustain trade and handcrafts in developing countries. Becoming more formalized in the late 60s, it wasn’t until 1988 when the Dutch organisation Max Havelaar pioneered a fair trade certification that encompassed fair trade bodies in countries around the globe and introduced fair trade as a concept in mainstream consumerism. Coffee and cocoa are easily identified with the Fair Trade logo, aimed at ensuring that growers of raw materials enjoy fair and equitable conditions, remuneration and long term sustainability.

But what about textiles? Understandably, cotton is the biggest commodity in the fair trade market, not only as a raw material, but also as finished garments. Cotton imports from developing countries are subject to fair trade agreements in order to ensure a minimum price for the raw material which allows growers and producers to survive and even grow their business. Illegal labour practices, such as those using child labour or sweatshop labour, are the targets of fair trade organizations. Eliminating these practices ensures a better deal for all. Fair trade also seeks to improve the standing of women employed in the textile industry.

Fair Labor Association (FLA)

This non-profit collective was set up in 1999 in response to several highly publicized cases of extremely poor labor standards and sweatshop conditions in off shore manufacturing of some very high profile clothing and shoe brands. The Fair Labor Association (FLA) monitors labor standards around the world in order to ensure that workers are treated fairly, have good and safe working conditions and are free from any form of exploitation. Routine inspections as well as unscheduled visits ensure compliance with affiliated manufacturers. In the event of non-compliant labor standards being found, the collective oversee plans to correct labor practices that fail to meet the standards and conduct follow up audits. All information of labor standards are published on the FLA website.

International Labor Organization (ILO)

A powerful body which came into being in the aftermath of the First World War, the International Labor Organization (ILO) was a part of the League of Nations. When the League was dissolved after the Second World War, the ILO passed under the jurisdiction of the successor, the United NationsLike the UN, the ILO works on a system of member states.

The ILO holds an annual conference in Geneva, where the headquarters are located, in which conditions are discussed and guidelines laid out, underpinning the four main pillars of the organisation: workers’ freedom and rights, elimination of forced labor, elimination of the exploitation of children, and the abolition of any form of discrimination.

The ILO maintain a database of statistics on labor in countries throughout the world. It also actively works against child labor and forced labor and has established laws and standards which set out acceptable minimum wage levels. As an organisation, it has been the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

International Labor Association (ILO) Logo

Bluesign

Bluesign was founded in Switzerland in 2000. Their innovative approach to sustainability starts at the very beginning of the manufacturing process.

Bluesign actively seeks to work towards sustainability with its Bluesign system which focuses on five main principals: sustainable resource use, clean air, clean water, safety for the consumer, and safety of the labour force. Bluesign works together with industry to ensure resources are ethical, and maximum production is achieved with the smallest eco-footprint possible. The system works towards putting in place manufacturing systems that protect the air and water from harmful pollutants. The workforce is also considered and strategies are implemented to protect workers rights and maintain high standards of OH&S. The end result is aimed at delivering products that are safe for consumers.

Bluesign Logo

Organic Cotton Clothing: Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

Conceived as an idea and Introduced in 2006, GOTS is made up of organisations from the US, Germany the UK and Japan with input from other international bodies. Several other countries have aligned their consolidated their policies under the umbrella of GOTS.

The aims of GOTS are to protect the integrity of organic fibres used in the manufacturing of textiles starting from the farming processes and continuing through the manufacturing process. Textiles labelled ‘Organic’ must contain at least 95% certified organic fibres and be grown and manufactured according to their standards. Textiles labelled ‘Made with Organic’ must contain 70% organic fibres. To be certified, stringent criteria must be met and sanctions are imposed including bans on companies which are found in breach of the rules. A list of current bans is published on the website. In addition, the GOTS adheres to strict ILO conventions.

GOTS also works towards sustainable packaging, working on eliminating PVC use, and the promoting the use of paper and cardboard packaging and swing tags which are certified by forestry safeguards FSC or PEFC.

1% For the Planet

Set up in 2002 by the founders of Patagonia and Blue Ribbon Flies, the organisation aims to encourage businesses to donate 1% of their profit to efforts which benefit the environment and foster sustainability, something Patagonia had been doing for over 15 years prior to the inception of 1% For the Planet.

Companies are actively encouraged to join the global partnership in order to make a real difference. 1% For the Planet offers advice and guidance to companies helping them decide which groups and organisations can make a real difference to our planet so they can channel financial support accordingly.

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