Updated January 4, 2021If you’re in the market for a new mattress, and you want one that’s both manufactured in an ecologically and socially responsible way and safe for you to sleep on every night, the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) could be your new best friend. GOTS is now a worldwide leading textile standard, and textile products certified under GOTS go through meticulous testing to ensure they adhere to strict rules about social responsibility, environmental impact, and consumer safety. Let’s talk a little more about what GOTS means, what it takes to get certified, and who it helps protect.Got GOTS?Introduced in 2006, the aim of the standard is to define globally-recognized criteria for the socially ethical and environmentally responsible manufacturing of organic textiles.There are three main groups GOTS aims to protect:The workers who produce organic textilesThe consumers who purchase them through the retail sectorThe environment itself—GOTS certifying bodies monitor everything from water and energy consumption to working conditions to the chemicals used during the fabrication process.GOTS covers a lot of different organic fabrics, including cotton, wool, silk, bamboo, etc. The standard tracks these materials all the way through the entire textile supply chain—from the farm that grows them, to the plant that processes them, to the store that sells them.To be GOTS certified, textile products cannot contain fewer than 70 percent organic natural fibers, water consumption and environmental impact must be limited during all stages of production, and the chemical inputs during manufacturing must meet high standards of biodegradability and toxicological safety.GOTS Certification ProcessIn order to display the GOTS seal on their products, manufacturers must first request a certification. Once the certification application is complete, the GOTS certifying body will work with the requesting company to come up with an inspection and testing plan.Next, the certifying body will complete an on-site inspection to determine if all the criteria in the GOTS standard are being met. This inspection will include things like:Ensuring all chemical inputs are approvedTaking a hard look at the way the factory weaves or knits its organic fibersAnalyzing textile content to ensure it meets the minimum 70 percent organicMaking companies keep chemical use records for their facilitiesGOTS Certification CriteriaGOTS has three basic categories of regulations that entities must comply with in order to be certified: social, environmental, and safety. Social criteria protect factory and farm workers, environmental criteria protect the local ecosystem and its inhabitants, and safety criteria protect us—the end consumers.Social GuidelinesSocial guidelines exist to protect the workers who produce the raw materials, components, and finished products, regardless of the local or national laws in place. They include regulations such as:Forced labor and child labor are banned.Workers must be given safe and appropriate working conditions.Worker hours cannot be excessive.Union-busting is prohibited.All workers must be paid a living wage.Environmental GuidelinesEnvironmental guidelines were created to minimize the pollution, waste, and impact associated with the growth and production of textiles. They specify things like:Machine operators must follow proper procedures for waste reduction.Wet processing units must track and limit their energy consumption.Wastewater must be sent to a wastewater treatment plant and never dumped.Packaging and labels must be made of responsibly harvested paper or cardboard.Safety GuidelinesSafety protocols include farming and manufacturing guidelines, and they’re there to ensure consumers are protected from dangerous or unhealthy practices in production and shipping.Farmers must adhere to the standards of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM), which prohibits the use of chemical fertilizers and synthetic pesticides.Textile processors must first prove they use IFOAM-approved raw materials. Once they do that, there are plenty of other standards to follow:Processing chemicals, auxiliaries, and dyes must adhere to stringent biodegradability and toxicity limitations.Accessories like zippers and buttons, as well as other processing chemicals, cannot contain heavy metals (examples include nickel, chrome, mercury, arsenic, and lead).Bleaches used before dyeing cannot contain chlorine.Carcinogenic dyes must be avoided.Harmful process chemicals like formaldehyde, toxic heavy metals, functional nanoparticles, and aromatic solvents are prohibited.The use of synthetic sizing agents is banned.Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are prohibited.Who Offers the GOTS Certification?There are several GOTS-approved certification bodies operating around the globe. These include Control Union Certifications (CU), Ecocert Greenlife, OneCert International, and Oregon Tilth. These bodies are all approved under the GOTS standard to perform inspections and tests and issue certifications.FAQsAre there other standards out there for organic textiles?There are plenty of other certifications and global standards regulating the production of organic fabrics, each focusing on its own special area.The Global Organic Latex Standard sets the criteria for organic latex.OEKO-TEX’s Standard 100 tests for a range of toxic chemicals, and their LEATHER Standard deals specifically with leather products.The GreenGuard and GreenGuard Gold standards focus on Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)—toxic compounds that often get injected into home textile products during the refining process and then are released as gasses from those products.CertiPUR-US® ensures products are made without dangerous processing agents, are free from harmful chemicals, and have low VOCs.What’s the difference between first, second, and third-party certification?The only difference between these three categories is the organization doing the certifying. First-party certifications are normally the least trustworthy because they’re issued by the same organization that made the product being certified. Second-party certifications are a little better because they’re issued by outside organizations of which the product manufacturer is a member. The most trustworthy certifications are third-party because they’re issued by outside entities not affiliated with the certification applicant at all.What is USDA NOP?NOP stands for National Organic Program, the Department of Agriculture’s regulatory program for organic agriculture. This program “develops and enforces uniform national standards for organically-produced agricultural products sold in the United States,” and all products labeled organic must meet federal NOP standards. NOP also accredits third-party certifiers to help the government determine whether growers and manufacturers meet USDA Organic standards.Is GOTS better than USDA NOP?Generally, third-party certification programs go above and beyond legal standards for organic products. They’re a way for producers and manufacturers to prove to the consumer they’ve created a product that far exceeds the bare minimum for organic certification.That being said, GOTS sometimes uses NOP (National Organic Program) to ensure raw materials are organically grown. The fibers used in GOTS-certified products must be certified organic. In the US, NOP is the entity that oversees how organic plant and animal products are raised. GOTS takes over at harvest, regulating how textile materials are collected, processed, dyed, and spun.The area where GOTS goes beyond what the federal government can do is its social and environmental regulations. The US government only has jurisdiction to regulate on US soil, so its powers to prevent companies from using unethical practices offshore are limited. However, since compliance with GOTS standards is voluntary and based on the desire for certification, GOTS certifying bodies can ensure companies obey its environmental and social rules regardless of the country in which the fabric is processed by withholding certification if they don’t comply.Can I verify if a mattress is GOTS certified?Sure you can. Sometimes mattresses might try to sneak a GOTS label onto their final product if even just one of its textile components is GOTS certified. If you want to make sure all the fabric components of your mattress are certified, GOTS keeps a public database anyone can check for free. That way, you can make sure the company isn’t falsely or misleadingly putting the GOTS label on their products.Bottom LineMattresses have a lot of components and materials that go into them, and each of those components is an opportunity for manufacturers to cut corners on safety or scrimp on workers’ well-being to save a buck. A GOTS certification is one way you can know the textile processors who made its organic fabric components didn’t skimp on any part of the production process, but they made a mattress based on sustainable textiles and ethical practices.The GOTS label grade—combined with other certifications for non-textile components—can go a long way towards offering you credible assurance that you’re buying a safe product that was produced in a socially responsible and eco-friendly manner.This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional. 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