How can textiles be “organic”?  What does “organic” mean with regards to textiles? How can the consumer determine organic garments are genuinely “organic”?
Organic textiles can be made from cotton, wool and even bamboo or hemp. In order to achieve organic certification, the fibre must be of certified organic origin. Simply put, a cotton or bamboo operation has to have been managed in accordance with the organic standards (no prohibited chemicals used) for more than 3 years. Wool must come from certified organic sheep (no prohibited chemicals used on the land for more than 3 years and the animal also raised in accordance with the standards).
Spinning, yarning, dyeing and garmenting are also required to be certified organic if the final product (e.g. t-shirt, socks etc) is to wear a “certified organic” label. Apart from the issue of needing a certified organic factory in order to maintain the certified status, generally, the most challenging part to gaining certification is the dyeing process. What would you, as a consumer, expect with regards to dye materials used in organic textiles? Plantderived natural dyes? A dye that is made from 100% plants, in fact, may not be realistic. 100% plant-extracted handcrafted dye colours could be used locally in small quantities, but such products may not be sold at a highly commercial level because of issues with obtaining the quantity required and also quality (not always being stable). Dyes are assessed on a case by case basis to ensure that the dye is not toxic to the environment or to humans (i.e. not a known allergy source etc).
If the garments are imported from overseas and already carry a widely known organic certification in another country, ACO assesses the international organic requirements and confirms whether it is up to standard with our own.
ACO offers textile certification under the Australian Certified Organic Standard  and the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).

Australian Certified Organic Standard

Textile processing requirements are listed on chaper 6.6.3 of the standard, and includes specific requirements for wool and cotton products.
If the garments are imported from overseas and already carry a widely known organic certification in another country, ACO assesses the international organic requirements and confirms whether it is up to standard with our own.
You may not have seen “certified organic” garments very often, but have seen many garments claiming, to be “made with organic cotton/wool”. This is because, as mentioned earlier, achieving organic certification for garments can be challenging and sometimes become a time consuming and costly process. How do you know if products that claim, “made with organic cotton/wool”, really source “certified organic” cotton or wool? That is why ACO established a verification program called “made with certified organic fibre”. This is a verification program whereby ACO can confirm the claim “made with…” is genuine by reviewing the stage processes of the production flow chart and traceability documents.
ACO believes this verification program could also help some operators as the first step to producing fully “certified organic” garments in the future. The verification program guarantees the products’ traceability system and confirms the products’ claim (“made with organic cotton/wool”) is genuine.

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

Australian Certified Organic (ACO) in July 2012 made a landmark agreement with Soil Association Certification to provide inspections and customer service in the Asia Pacific region to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). Soil Association Certification is a leading UK certification body linked to the Soil Association charity which is a founding member and ¼ owner of the GOTS standards. ACO will be the preferred partner in the region for Soil Association Certification’s inspections to GOTS.
This partnership between two well known not for profit certification bodies will mean a professional, more efficient and environmentally friendly certification option for Australian businesses as well as those in the region. GOTS represents an important advantage over other textile certifications: It is the only internationally recognized organic textile standard that ensures organic integrity at every step of the supply chain, from harvesting through production, processing, manufacturing and labelling.
Clients inspected to GOTS by ACO on behalf of Soil Association Certification will be able to use the GOTS symbol, the Soil Association symbol and if desired the well-recognised organic Bud logo on their labels – symbols recognized and trusted by consumers globally.
With around 3000 businesses in 55 countries already certified to GOTS, we can help you source certified fibres, fabrics or finished products. We can guide you or your suppliers through the process of becoming certified providing expertise, dedicated service and technical knowledge.

An overview of the GOTS standard

The GOTS standards detail all the requirements for organic textile processing and cover the following areas:
  • Certified organic natural fibres: Your products must contain a minimum of 95% organic fibre to be labelled as ‘organic’ and 70% to be labeled as ‘made with X% organic’
  • Accessories and additional materials permitted: Non-organic fibre content and accessories must meet the requirements for material types permitted
  • Minimum social criteria (based on ILO norms): If you have employees you must comply with the social and employment criteria
  • Separation and traceability of organic products: Organic and non-organic products must be kept separate, and you must be able to account for incoming and outgoing organic products, including keeping supplier certificates on file
  • Chemical inputs used in processing: Require approval by GOTS before use. We can provide you with details of over 4000 chemical inputs already approved or assess new inputs you want to use
  • Harmful residues in accessories and final products: If there is a risk your final products or accessories may contain harmful residues, they may need to be tested
  • Environmental management and waste water treatment: You’ll need an environmental policy and waste water must be tested and treated (by you or your local authority)
  • Basic quality requirements: If you are applying colour, fastness must be checked; and if you are making garments, dimensional stability must be checked
  • Labelling: Labels must meet the GOTS, Soil Association and ACO standards, and be checked by us prior to use.
Download the GOTS standard and manuals here