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Organic Certification
OCA is not an organic standard. By operating on top of the certification system, OCA adds value to the sector by addressing some of the limitations of certification. OCA, through its programmes, evidences continuous improvement in social and environmental impact, and invests in the security and resilience of organic cotton.

organic certification

What are organic standards?

Our friends at Textile Exchange answer this well, so we’re going to hear from them…

Unlike terms such as “natural” or “sustainable,” the core principles of organic farming have been enshrined in law. This ensures all farmers that want to sell what they grow as organic must meet a common baseline. Many organic farmers go above and beyond this baseline. But, at the very least, every farmer selling their crops as organic must meet a set of strict rules that include requirements around soil health and the prohibition of artificial fertilisers, hazardous synthetic pesticides, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Once the cotton leaves the farm, it isn’t automatically covered by the same legal protections. However, private standard-setting organisations have developed voluntary standards that bridge the gap to finished product.The most common of these finished product standards are the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Textile Exchange’s Organic Content Standard (OCS). Both these standards accept organic cotton inputs from farms certified to organic standards recognised by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).

These include the regulations in the primary cotton-producing countries such as India. Independent third-party certification plays an important role in verifying the status of organic cotton. Becoming certified to GOTS or the OCS means subscribing to a system of monitoring and certification that helps connect the dots throughout the supply network.

How does organic certification work?

There are two types of certification for organic cotton: farm-level certification and finished product certification.

 

organic certification

Farm-level certification

Third-party certification bodies verify that organic farmers meet strict national organic laws and regulations. Organic farmers must keep records to show that they are meeting full organic standards 365 days of the year, and their farms are also inspected in person at least once a year.

It’s a big commitment for a farmer as certification also adds additional costs for them, including paying a fee to become certified.

Finished product certification

Finished product certifications like the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) or Textile Exchange’s Organic Content Standard (OCS) are designed to ensure organic standards are respected as the fibres make their way along the supply chain. While neither is a farm-level standard, they both retain an awareness of what is happening on the ground through relationships with organisations like OCA.

There are three key parties that play a key role in the assurance process:

The standard-setting body

As standard-setting bodies, GOTS and Textile Exchange create standards for the segregation, identification, and volume reconciliation of organically grown content at each stage of the supply chain. Their standards are then enforced by certification bodies.

Certification bodies

Third-party certification bodies verify GOTS’ and Textile Exchange’s requirements through annual audits, as well as volume monitoring throughout the year. Each time goods like yarns or fabrics are sold, the certification body issues transaction certificates based on volume. This chain of custody requires everyone along the supply chain to do their part to ensure the standard of the certified material is maintained.

Accreditation bodies

Accreditation bodies monitor and assess the certification bodies to ensure that they are operating as intended. This assurance process allows GOTS and Textile Exchange to detect irregularities, in turn protecting the intrinsic value of the fibre and delivering confidence to consumers. If inconsistencies in volume arise, GOTS’ and Textile Exchange work directly with the certification bodies and accreditation bodies to resolve them.

What can brands do?

Join OCA’s Platform

Our programmes address some of the limitations of certification. OCA is increasing access to non-GM seed, we helped develop a global testing protocol to detect the presence of genetically modified organisms in organic cotton and our Implementing Partners support farmers in meeting certification requirements.

Support Farmers

Understand where your cotton comes from and improve how the risks and rewards of the organic cotton system are shared with farmers. This can be done by supporting OCA’s Farm Programme, investing in relationships with farmers, making long-term sourcing commitments with them and facilitating their education and training.

Buy In-Conversion Cotton

Increasing the supply of organic cotton available can help to reduce pressure on the market. By sourcing more “in-conversion” cotton through OCA’s Farm Programme, brands can support farmers that are in the three-year process of transitioning their land to organic so they don’t give up on organic cotton.

Questions about organic certification