Sustainability: The business opportunity with organic certification

Climate change and consumers are putting pressure on the textile industry to follow more sustainable practises – and fast. But there are simple solutions and commercial opportunities for printers to get on board with sustainability through organic textile certification. Here Sarah Jupp, business development manager at Soil Association Certification, explains more.

There’s more demand for organic textiles, and every business involved in producing certified organic textiles must be certified – including printers. If you’re a printer that wants to trade certified organic textiles to other businesses, you need to be certified to an organic textile standard.

Obtaining certification provides assurance to your customers that your activities and products are meeting some of the highest available sustainable standards. But in the UK, only a handful of printers are certified organic, so whether you’re a screen printer, digital printer or apply heat transfer vinyls, grab the business opportunity and grow your business more sustainably now.

How much does it cost to certify?

These fees are from Soil Association Certification, which certifies to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Textile Exchange’s Organic Content Standard (OCS).

The annual fees start at £765 plus a recharge fee of around £100 to the standard owner. This covers your application, inspection and licence. If you certify to both the GOTS and OCS standards, one of your licenses will be charged at a 50% discounted rate.

What are the benefits?

When you certify, you will be joining a small number of printers who can offer customers fully certified organic products. You will also gain a lot of prestige by being able to advertise your responsible business credentials. Many customers will choose to contract a certified organic printer, even if they don’t need a fully labelled product, just to be sure their garments are certified organic and/or printed in an environmentally friendly way by credible printers.

When you certify organic, you can also print onto certified/labelled products, sell them on with a certification logo present, and add your own licence number. By searching for this number on the relevant standard’s database, anyone can attribute your business to the product (rather than your supplier) – providing reassurance that your business and supply chain meets the highest standards for organic garments, energy, waste, water use and eco-friendly chemical inputs.

What happens if you’re not certified?

Without certified printers, suppliers of certified organic products can’t put the organic certification logo on their labels before they are decorated; or alternatively printers need to remove the references to certification (e.g. by cutting out each label). Standard owners such as the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) protect their logo use very rigorously, including by legal action in some cases.

Without the organic certification logo on the end product, there is no independent verification for your customers and for consumers and without more certified printers there will continue to be a lack of transparency and trust in supply chains.

Which certification should I go for?

There are two main organic certifications globally: the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Textile Exchange’s Organic Content Standard (OCS). GOTS is the gold standard globally because it considers the impacts of processing as well as the percentage of organic fibre in the finished garment.

 
Confirms the item is made with organic fibres and this has been traced through the supply chain (the chain of custody).
Confirms the item has been processed according to strict standards for ecological and socially responsible production along the whole supply chain. This means workers’ rights are protected, working conditions are safe and hygienic, only low impact dyes and inks are used, waste water is treated properly, and energy and water use is monitored. x
You must print on certified labelled products using GOTS approved inks or heat transfer vinyls. x
Allows you to print on GOTS certified products, which can be labelled with the GOTS logo, because it proves the chain of custody as well as the processing methods used. x
Allows you to print on OCS or GOTS certified products, which can be labelled with the OCS logo, because either proves the chain of custody.

 The rising demand for organic textiles:

  • The organic textile market has grown for the 8th year running, growing 10% over the last year.
  • There’s been a 127% increase in the number of organic cotton products sold in UK since 2017.
  • 55% of companies aim to source at least half of their products with sustainable materials by 2025.

To discuss which type of certification is right for your business, or request and application pack visit www.soilassociation.org

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