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“We are trying to convince brands to use the GOTS label on their products.”

Sumit Gupta GOTSGOTS recently introduced a consumer driven label that proves that its product is organic and sustainable. Sumit Gupta, Deputy Director-Standard Development and Quality Assurance, elaborates on this label and its benefits .

“Textile is the second most polluting industry in the world,” which is highly contested and disputed tag associated with this space says Sumit Gupta, Deputy Director, Standard Development and Quality Assurance, Global Organic Textile Standard. “Most of this pollution happens during the processing of textiles due to the lack of effluent treatment systems,” he adds. His organisation GOTS is committed to controlling this pollution by recycling waste.

Currently, production is moving out of China to countries that do not have strong compliance or waste disposal norms or pollution treatment systems. Buyers should ask for a credible third party certification or GOTS certified products. “This will ensure responsible production. Currently, plant based dyes are trending. Also, there is an emerging trend of zero waste. Certified suppliers now want to sell products in India. Airports are selling GOTS labeled T-shirts. Zodiac recently received a GOTS certification for their production activities in India. The brand sells organic certified shirts under its brand Z3. To ensure sustainability, consumers have to drive brands toward sustainable decisions. They need to question their retailers, raise issues on social media. This will impel brands to provide the right products,” adds Gupta.

Bangladesh has made huge improvements in factory and worker safety. The country has also set up many effluent treatment plants. In 2018, Bangladesh reached second position (after India) in terms of GOTS certified facilities in the country. This growth trend showcases the commitment of the Bangladeshi textile industry to not only use organic fibres, but also to environmental and social compliances. Fire and Building Safety are included in GOTS criteria and the country has made significant progress in all these areas. “Though there has been an improvement in compliance in India too, the momentum is weaker. There has to be more improvement needed given the size of our industry. More initiatives are needed and judiciary has to also step in once the PILs are filed. Only then is action taken,” views Gupta.

According to Gupta, it is possible for brands to be more sustainable and affordable. “The investments you make will eventually pay off in the long run. In addition you need to position the product and adjust the supply chain. Buyers ask for compliances only up to the yarn or fabric level,” he says. Garmenting units are exempted from compliance and it is a mechanical process and the product need not be tested. Gupta believes this argument is not valid from the point of traceability. “Unless we have traceability and volume reconciliation at the garment level we can’t ensure that the garments use sustainable raw materials,” he says. GOTS has a consumer driven label which proves that its product is organic and sustainable. “This helps our consumer to make a buying decision at a retail store". In India this label is used on many products. It is used on t-shirts sold at the airports. Children wear brand Pranava also uses this GOTS label.

However, some brands sell certified products without the label. “We are trying to convince these brands to use this label on their products. It can be used a sewn-in or as a hangtag. So the consumer can see this is a genuine, verified third party claim. Several retailers are using this label. “We enable them to provide information to consumers,” adds Gupta.

To sustain this growth, it is important that the industry is strongly connected with other stakeholders in the organic textile value chain. While connections within the country are important; active engagement with international stakeholders including suppliers and buyers are vital to the success of the industry.