India is one of the largest exporters of textiles worldwide. With the surge in fast fashion trends and online retail, the apparel industry is going through an important phase where a growing number of consumers are becoming mindful of the clothes they buy and wear. This phenomenon is observed across the globe and products – apparel, bed linen, upholstery, etc. It has led to an increasing number of products labelled ‘natural, ‘organic’, ‘ethical’, and ‘clean’. These labels are used commonly and quite often frivolously by some, with certain claims that may not be within the scope of the certification. The consumer needs to know more about what each certification means.
One way to do this is to be aware of the various certifications that guarantee the validity and credibility of the labels. Century Rayon was the first company in India to receive the STeP certificate by OEKO-TEX Certificate for Sustainable Textile Production in 2014. Indian manufacturer Purecotz became the first sewing factory to be certified according to the Fairtrade Textile Standard last year, in a move that paves the way for a Fairtrade certified supply chain. These initially certified manufacturers inspire others in the country to aim towards attaining their own certifications and thus build a better reputation in the global market.
Some of the top certifications for the textile industry that are globally recognized are:
Better Cotton Initiative (BCI)
India is the world’s largest producer of cotton and cotton is one of the country’s most important crops. Many farmers make a living from growing cotton with tens of millions of people working in the cotton industry. Better Cotton and its implementing partners work closely with farmers to help them secure better yields and fibre quality. This is done by minimizing the harmful impact of crop protection practices, promoting water stewardship, improving the health of the soil, enhancing biodiversity and using land responsibly, and promoting decent work with effective management systems. BCI’s mission is to help cotton communities survive and thrive while protecting and restoring the environment.
The Higg Index is an apparel and footwear industry self-assessment standard for assessing environmental and social sustainability throughout the supply chain. It provides a universal framework for accurately scoring and comparing a company or product’s sustainable impact. Prominent Indian textile manufacturers use Higg to reduce energy use and Greenhouse gas emissions. Using Higg and having a presence on the index, helps Indian textile manufacturers have better visibility among global players.
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the worldwide textile processing standard for organic fibres including ecological and social criteria backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain. GOTS certified final products include fibre products, yarns, fabrics, clothes, home textiles, mattresses, personal hygiene products, as well as food contact textiles, and more. Having one common standard enables textile processors and manufacturers to export their fabrics and garments with one organic certification that is accepted in all major markets. This transparency also gives consumers the power to choose truly organic products sourced from green supply chains. The GOTS website provides a Certified Suppliers Database, certified Indian suppliers can easily be found here.
Fair Trade is a global movement made up of a diverse network of producers, companies, consumers, advocates, and organizations putting people and the planet first. A product with the Fair Trade certified seal, implies it meets rigorous social, environmental, and economic standards – safe working conditions, environmental protection, sustainable livelihoods, and community development. Fair Trade aligns with the United Nations SDGs as well. Indian suppliers that are Fair Trade certified care about their employees and the communities in which they operate.
OEKO-TEX consists of eighteen independent institutes in Europe and Japan that are continuously developing test methods and limit values for the textile and leather industry. They provide important boosts for innovation and make a significant contribution to the development of high-quality products. OEKO-TEX’s mission is to create trust in textiles and leather and their production by offering a portfolio of services and certificates that support producers and suppliers on the path to a sustainable future and offer customized solutions.
Sustainability, with traceability and transparency, has been a key challenge for the textile industry for some time now. Any Indian textile manufacturer who sells, labels, or represents any textile product with the above certifications would have met the respective criteria and conditions, earning a place in the global markets and trustworthiness among consumers.
India retailing: buzzwords-slow-steady-sustainable
Better Cotton Initiative (BCI): https://bettercotton.org/
Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS): https://global-standard.org/
Higg Index: https://higg.com/
Fair Trade: https://www.fairtradecertified.org/