On Wednesday, certification nonprofit Global Organic Textile Standard announced the highest growth rate in 2019, with the rate of certified facilities growing by 35 percent, from 5,760 to 7,765 — covering more than 3 million workers.
While much of the volume increases in certified facilities were seen in Bangladesh, Europe and India — which has the largest number of GOTS-certified facilities at 2,411 — there was a dedicated effort by U.S. manufacturers, adding nearly 150 newly certified factories.
The Netherlands, Spain and Turkey also made the list of countries with large percentage growth in GOTS certifications.
“People don’t care that it’s made in the U.S.A. but they do care that it’s sustainable,” said Scott Wilson, founder and partner of L.A.-based vertically integrated manufacturer Ustrive Manufacturing and Tour Image, Inc.
The company includes designer and developer, Tour Image, Inc.; private label manufacturer, Jin Clothing; full-service organic dyeing and finishing facility, Care-Tex Industries; and non-toxic, water-based printing and embroidery house, S&B Printing.
In November, Ustrive became the first vertically integrated clothing producer in North America to achieve certifications for both GOTS and Textile Exchange’s Organic Content Standard, but recent media exposure has had Wilson’s phone ringing off the hook.
Start-ups to large-sized brands have called inquiring about the GOTS certification, or as Wilson puts it “some sort of sustainability.”
After getting doubly rocked, first by the U.S.-China tariffs and then by coronavirus supply chain disruptions, the global textile, apparel and footwear industries are forced to rethink systems.
Why not rethink sustainably?
“It’s still a bottom-line business,” said Wilson, who obviously bit the cost upfront and spent a month working on the ground with one of the 17 accredited certification bodies to attain the certifications. He is striving for the B Corp status next.
Wilson is partial to his 60 percent hemp, 40 percent organic cotton T-shirt that is “unbelievable” — “but it’s not cheap. This shirt costs $6 more; they can’t deal with it,” he said, in some cases.
As with others, he knows consumers will have to meet the demand, but his survey of new mothers in the U.S. revealed another barrier — cluelessness about chemicals in clothing.
Wilson said almost all of the 500 respondents said they would pay more knowing their clothing and their children’s’ clothing was free of toxic chemical exposure, which is the reason GOTS and OCS exist.
Under GOTS, a factory has to verify each step of its process.
“We’ve created a proprietary tracking system called Utrak,” what Wilson calls a “real overkill, but we did it anyway,” and some brands are now inquiring about the technology solution for their own factories.
Working with GOTS consultants, the verification process turned out a five-page paper trail with 47 steps for a single T-shirt, but the Utrak solution boiled it into a one-page, web-based form.
“You could be sitting on the beach, as a production manager, and see that your shirts were cut at 8:43 a.m.,” added Wilson, who is working on deploying a consumer-facing QR code next.
At the end of the day, consumers and brands are paying for peace of mind.
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