Organic (and other) Certification
Organic standards - and the way consumer products are produced - matter very much to an ever-growing number of people. If you've navigated to this page, the chances are you've made a conscious decision to find toys or gifts for your little ones, that are made with organic fabrics.
All the toys on this website are made with a certified organic fabric as the main outer material, showing it's been grown to strict organic standards. On a personal level as a mother and as a retailer, the environmental, wildlife and human benefits of buying organic are all important to me.
Therefore, on each toy's page of this site, I've included a section that details where - and how ethically - the toys were produced. Without wanting the toys' descriptions to become too cumbersome, I've put together here on this separate page, a quick rundown of the types of organic (and other) certifications that are mentioned on the toys' pages.
Explaining organic standards and certification organisations...
There are several main organic standards. These standards set out the strict criteria that must be adhered to - and be verified as having been adhered to - for organic certification to be awarded.
The most basic level of organic cotton certification will confirm that, at crop stage, the fibres have been grown to organic standards. The highest level of certification covers all manufacturing processes to achieve the end product.
Different organic organisations carry out inspections and, upon compliance with a particular organic standard, they'll then issue the relevant certification.
Here's an overview of some of the main standards and certifying bodies for cotton fibres and textiles generally...
Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS)
This is widely recognised as the world's leading organic standard for processing textiles that are made from at least 70% organic fibres.
The GOTS certification has stringent requirements which cover every step of the supply chain from the harvest of the organic fibres through the entire production process, including any other chemical processes carried out during manufacturing. Any dyes, optical brighteners, or any other chemicals that are used, must meet the GOTS criteria.
This standard also covers social responsibility to workers and the impact of the manufacturing processes on the environment. For workers, this includes no child labour, living wages and working hours that aren't excessive. Working conditions must be safe and hygienic, with freely chosen and regular employment, no discrimination and no harsh or inhumane treatment.
If you'd like to read the full scope of the GOTS requirements, you can find details here.
CERTIFICATION ORGANISATIONS (and the organic standards they each endorse):
An international organic certification organisation, covering GOTS and IVN organic standards for the processing of textiles.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
This is a certification organisation which uses the GOTS criteria for certifying processed textiles (from the post-harvest stage onwards) as organic.
National Organic Program (NOP)
This is the USDA's organic standard that covers the crop stages of certifying organic cotton fibres, from seed to harvest. An end textile product which has both NOP and GOTS certification can be established as being produced entirely to organic standards, from crop to end product.
Explaining Oeko-Tex 100 certification..
The very first thing to clarify about Oeko-Tex is that it is NOT an organic certification, although it's often used alongside, or in tandem with, organic certification and this can lead to misconceptions.
If a textile has been Oeko-Tex tested, it means is that it's been tested to not contain the top 100 harmful chemicals. To shine a very blue light on this, it could - potentially - contain the 101st worst chemical! Or others!
Furthermore, if the environmental impact of a product is important to you, Oeko-Tex doesn't provide any assurance that it's been grown in an environmentally-friendly way, nor whether any of those top 100 nasties it was tested for were actually present at some point prior to being tested. Those (and other) chemicals may have been used on the cotton at some earlier stage of production but may have just been washed out thoroughly enough, prior to testing, to not remain in the fabric.
For example, a cotton T-shirt, made from conventionally grown cotton fibres, can be awarded Oeko-Tex certification, which will show that none of the worst 100 chemicals were present at the time of testing. However, if those fibres weren't organically grown, there's a significant likelihood that as a crop, they were heavily sprayed with toxic pesticides and other nasties, such as herbicides and petrochemical-based synthetic fertilisers. Vigorous washing can remove these efficiently enough for the fabric to be successfully awarded certification. So Oekotex certification doesn't provide any guarantee, in the way that organic certification does, that the T-shirt's environmental history is as squeaky-clean as the testing might suggest. It's only a chemical-free assurance for the end product.
The only way to formally have confirmation that a textile has been grown without polluting or harmful chemicals is through organic certification.
You might then wonder why organic fabrics often also carry Oeko-Tex certification too. Most often, it's used with organic textile products to bridge a gap between the earlier organic certification stage and the other processes that lead to the end product. It's often used to demonstrate that none of the additional production stages, such as dyeing or any other finishing processes, have left undesirable residues on the organic fabric.
Organic certification of organically grown fibres or a raw fabric only covers the production up to the stage of testing. That said, organic can cover various stages of production - sometimes all the manufacturing stages, right up to the end product.
It's all a bit of a minefield, but hopefully this has given a little bit of an insight into the different types of certification you're most likely to find on organic textiles.