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Certified Organic Fiber: Building Supply Chains Free From Exploitation
by Libby Fearnley
Textile supply chains have a complicated history. Production used to be close to home, built on the backs of enslaved cotton workers and low wage garment workers. When we exported 98% of those jobs, those problems didn't disappear. Fashion & textiles have some of the longest and most complicated supply chains, making exploitation easy to hide.
You're probably wondering what this has to do with organic. If you are like most organic consumers, you look for the organic label because you don't want exposure to unnecessary pesticides and other toxic chemicals. But GOTS certification (Global Organic Textile Standard) goes way beyond chemical inputs.
The latest update to the standard, version 6, released in March 2020, builds on existing protections that ensure that child labor, bonded labor, or forced overtime is forbidden. All facilities in the supply chain must meet strict social criteria, following the ILO (International Labor Organization) framework for labor standards.
Here are just a few ways that buying certified organic textiles breaks the cycles of exploitation and oppression in fashion's supply chains.
1. FREEDOM TO ORGANIZE: Workers have freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, by way of trade unions or other organizations to lobby for worker rights.
2. HEALTH & SAFETY: In addition to chemical exposure, textile workers are often placed in hazardous factories with poor ventilation, temperature control, and no fire codes or safety procedures. GOTS ensures workers are trained and safety protocol established.
3. HOMEWORKER PROTECTION: Homeworkers are given the same safety protocol and benefits as in-factory laborers.
4. MIGRANT WORKER PROTECTION: Migrant workers are treated the same as local workers, and their travel documents may not be withheld.
5. LIVING WAGE: Workers must be paid a living wage-- that is to say a wage that covers basic living expenses and provides some discretionary income.
6. REASONABLE HOURS: Generally, weekly hours should not exceed 48hrs. Overtime hours are voluntary, and compensation is at a premium rate.
7. EMPOWERMENT: Workers should be provided with an anonymous way to report on harassment in the workplace.
This is just the start. It's heartbreaking to know that so many-- actually around 40.3 million people globally are trapped in modern slavery. What we do, make, and buy matters. Choosing GOTS-certified organic is part of the solution. Thank you for taking this step to understand more about the holistic benefits of supporting sustainable brands like Farm to Home!