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Understanding organic textiles

Majority of Brits (70%) would turn their back on greenwashing brands
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
GOTS organic logo

Main image: GOTS Organic label, © Global Organic Textile Standard

A new poll launched for the first ever Organic Textile Week (15-21 May 2023) reveals people are turning their backs on clothing brands that are intentionally misleading them.
In the survey of 2,000 people across the UK, two-thirds (70%) said that if they found out a brand was falsely claiming its products were organic, they would be less likely to purchase that brand in the future.
Three if five people polled (59%) said they were ‘angry’ or ‘disgusted’ to find out that some clothing brands claiming to be organic may actually contain hazardous synthetic pesticides and other chemicals.

What are organic textiles?

It’s important for almost three in five people (57%) the clothes and textiles they buy are genuinely sustainable. Consumers are not interested in buying from companies who engage in greenwashing – that is, making false or misleading claims to exaggerate their sustainability efforts.
On the flip side, over three-quarters of respondents are unsure or unclear of what certified organic textiles actually mean and almost a third of Brits didn’t know organic textiles or clothing even exist (29%).
Over half (56%) don’t know how to recognise whether or not an item of clothing or textiles are certified organic or not. If that’s you, all you need to do is look for the GOTS logo (see main image).

‘GOTS is the worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibres, including ecological and social criteria, backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain. GOTS makes stringent requirements and ensures that key requirements of the UN International Labour Organisation (ILO) are met. 
‘The aim of the standard is to define worldwide requirements that ensure organic status of textiles, from harvesting of the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing up to labelling. This provides a credible assurance to the end consumer and protects the market from greenwashing – which is prevalent in the textile sector.

‘These statistics show it’s important to people that they buy genuine organic textiles to ensure sustainability. An aware consumer and the use of our GOTS standard will ensure brands don’t get away with greenwashing for long.’

GOTS UK representative

Protection from greenwash

Organic UK, the Organic Trade Board (OTB) and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) launched the first UK Organic Textile Week in a bid to raise awareness and educate shoppers about organic textiles.

Key brands from clothing, childrenswear, personal care and home textile such as People Tree, Natracare, Bamford, My Little Green Wardrobe, Greenfibres, de Le Cuona and Organ(y)c are coming to together to celebrate and promote certified organic textiles, while informing shoppers about how to identify truly organic options.

Organic certification

Currently, organic food is a legally protected definition – but this isn’t the case for textiles. The poll reveals that the majority of those surveyed (70%) think it should be a legal requirement for clothing brands to adhere to a clear organic textile processing standard, in order to be able to display the word organic on their products. This would help consumers to recognise greenwash.
Almost a quarter (24%) of those surveyed are aware of the term ‘organic textiles’, which is a heartening start for the campaigners.

‘For the first time in OTB history, we are launching an organic textile awareness week to raise awareness, contribute to consumers’ understanding and ultimately to fight greenwashing in textiles, including everything from clothing and childrenswear to house textiles and personal care. Our ambition is to make organic a conscious choice and not just a purchase.
‘Every certified organic textile purchase makes a huge positive difference to ourselves, people and our planet. The partnership with GOTS reinforces the OTB commitment to bring the whole organic industry together, and to grow awareness and sales for organic in all its sectors.’

CEO of the Organic Trade Board (OTB)

Textiles labelled ‘organic’ are based on organic natural fibres, grown on organic farms without the use of chemicals, pesticides and fertilisers. Processing according to GOTS means that strict environmental and social standards apply. Organic textiles processed to GOTS are independently certified by GOTS-approved certification bodies.

While the majority of organic fibres produced worldwide is cotton, consumers may not be aware that hemp and linen are alternative sustainable crops which use less water than cotton. With this in mind, over half of Brits (54%) said they would actively look to buy more organic hemp and linen clothing products certified to GOTS.

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