A Conversation with 2 GOTS Approved Consultants
What is your role as a GOTS Certified Consultant?
Katharina Schaus: I see my most important role as a "mediator" between the standard setter (GOTS), the standard users (traders, producer, manufacturers) and the certification bodies as well as accreditation bodies. I very much hope to be able to encourage and guide the requirements, processes, further developments for all involved "parties" in the GOTS-system as best as possible. Since I understand GOTS from all angles, I see myself in a position to support GOTS in its further development/improvement, to advise companies in their preparation for certification, but equally to accompany certification bodies in their accreditation and business development.
Ely Battalen: I work with brands and manufacturers in a two-phase process. First, I analyse if the client is prepared to pass the audit, and then secondly, I work with the client to implement procedures, processes, etc., needed to bring them into compliance.
What might a company or brand need to do or think about before they can achieve (apply for?) certification?
KS: Companies need to be clear about their sustainability goals and consider whether GOTS certification is a suitable instrument to implement their own goals. They need to study the standard/requirements in order to be able to determine whether they can comply with them at all. That certification means a lot of documentation is not clear to many. Nor that certification means independent quality assurance and that a fair budget must be available for this service provided by the certification bodies. On the other hand, certificates cannot simply be “bought”, no - they have to be elaborated. Thus, it must also be conscious that time and willingness for documentation and adjustments is necessary.
EB: Being certified to GOTS is not only about organic fibre, but the standard covers social and environmental aspects, as well as the need for a high level of inventory control.
Do you have any advice for a business that is considering getting certified or introducing certified products?
KS: It requires know-how to get certified or to include certified products in the portfolio. This know-how must come from somewhere. The companies can try to build it up effortfully on ¬their own. Or they have the option to call in us approved consultants as supporters, which makes the processes and implementation more profound and much easier. The GOTS system is demanding and thus there is plenty of potential for errors with possibly result in unpleasant consequences. To avoid mistakes and associated consequences, I can highly recommend the involvement of the consultants. In addition, I think it is very important that companies strive for certification out of conviction and not because pressure and demands are imposed from outside. Then, they will make a successful use of certification and their certified products.
EB: Contact a certified consultant!
One source of change in the textile processing industry is the constant improvement of the science and technology involved. What are some of the significant changes you’ve seen? How do those changes impact certification?
EB: One shift I’ve noticed recently is the replacement of workers with technology/robotics. This can mean the employment of fewer workers but also increased safety.
KS: I find the possibility of DNA tagging on cotton fibres a very groundbreaking development, especially in light of issues such as GMO contamination and organic fraud. This technology offers a solution to these problems and at the same time an innovative traceability tool. Herewith a method is available for the certification, which allows to secure and trace back some requirements even better, which is not used obligatorily until now. If all organic cotton were marked with the DNA tracers, the assurance of origin would be greatly improved and there would be reliable data on available quantities of certified fiber and materials, which currently do not exist.
But another, not technical related issue will have a significant impact on certification. There will be a flood of new laws/regulations especially for the textile industry, which have to be implemented already in the next years - supply chain law / due diligence law, EU strategy for sustainable and recyclable textiles in Europe, new waste regulations, etc. Certification must also be able to provide evidence of compliance with these laws/regulations. If this succeeds, then certification will continue to gain enormously in importance and can therefore expect a large increase of demand in the coming years.
What are some misconceptions about certification and what should people know?
KS: The standards / requirements apply equally to all companies, whether in Asia or in Europe. No exception or individual adjustment can or will be made for anyone individually. Furthermore, the job of the certification bodies is to verify compliance with all requirements, but not to develop the standards or make adjustments for individuals. In other words, this means, certification bodies are not in the position to offer consulting services as well as sourcing services. But many companies expect these kind of services from certifiers and are annoyed when they do not receive advice. This is exactly why it made sense for GOTS to integrate independent, approved consultants into its system. In my opinion, this significantly improves implementation and further development. It also makes companies feel satisfied and comforted if they also have a resource for guidance.
Certification is more credible than self-statements. In addition, GOTS as an independent certification system is by far less expensive than setting up an own sustainability program and/or sustainable seal. GOTS is an excellently established independent standard with a number of benefits. Quite reasonably, GOTS is called the most recommendable standard in the field of natural fibers. GOTS has now grown to over 12,000 certified companies, because this standard managed to harmonize with numerous other schemes in the early 2000s. The strength of GOTS is that the requirements are set across the entire value chain, covering social and environmental aspects with high standards. Of course, a high standard is not always easy to be achieved, but I am pleased when many companies approach me so that I can support them in the implementation and clarification of all concerns.
EB: A frequent misconception is a client believing that by having a Transaction Certificate from their supplier, they are abiding by the standard and can then make label claims.
More information about Katharina and Ely can be found at their websites:
Katharina Schaus website - http://www.itfits.de
Ely Battalen website - www.ewbconsultingllc.com