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Labor rights figure at GOTS meet

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) was held as a precursor event to the Organic World Congress (OWC), being held in New Delhi, November 9 to 11, 2017. Issues such as labor rights, living wages and land grabs were on the agenda at GOTS.

Delegates agreed wage equality was a vital key towards textile standards including a need for living wages and collective bargaining, but it was stressed that most standards still focus on minimum criteria only. Only a third of organic standards make even vague references to living wages and the question was raised if the low prices paid for organic textiles will ever allow for supply chain actors to pay living wages in certain regions.

Debates on the value of certifications and auditing at the GOTS event were intense, with information on how non-conformity is covered and dealt with from an auditor’s perspective. Audits were described as a diagnostic tool for what is wrong.

This led back to a discussion on the value of due diligence to go beyond the limitations of standards in addressing and mitigating problems, and to bring apparel brands into taking more responsibility than simply checking they have the correct certificates. The event concluded with the observation that social criteria in sustainability standards help improve workers’ situations, but social standards need to be improved with measurable criteria as a diagnostic tool.