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Cover Story | December 2017

More consumer awareness is required

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the world’s leading standard for processing of organic textiles. Sumit Gupta, India Head, GOTS, traces the growth of GOTS in India since its inception.

What is the global trend in organic textiles? Can you give a comparative description of some countries with India?

Since 2006, there has been a consistent growth in GOTS-certified facilities in the world. The year 2016 saw a 21 percent growth in terms of number of certified facilities.

India is the country with highest number of GOTS-certified facilities since year 2008. As per 2016 data, top five countries in terms of GOTS-certified facilities were India (1,488), Turkey (423), Germany (347), Bangladesh (331) and China (269), while the global figure was 4,642. Bangladesh and China are other important countries in terms of number of GOTS-certified facilities.

Please trace the growth of GOTS in India since its inception.

The first GOTS certification in India was issued in year 2008. It has been growing in India since then. It has also maintained its top position internationally in terms of GOTS certified facilities.

What do you think are the problems and prospects for organic textiles in India?

There are two different markets in Indian textile industry, export and domestic.

Export market is generally driven by big brands and buyers. Price premium and pull effect from brand remains a positive prospect for the exporter. Some challenges could be investment in environmentally and socially-responsible supply chains. Though these investments payback in long run, they do need some vital changes in the system and intent of top management has to be there. If the supplier lacks intent to make improvements to his supply chain, it can’t get certified and hence misses the orders instead.

For domestic market, there is considerable spending power with Indian consumer now. A general awareness for need of environmental friendly products is there. The challenge is the lack of clear understanding about need for holistic approach towards sustainability. For general idea of green, products has to be broken down to measurable aspects in terms of organic fibres’ identification, traceability, hazardous substances, solid and liquid waste treatment and so on.

We need to work together with media, NGOs, consumer organisations and government to create more awareness among consumers, manufacturers, retailers and designers in India.

With sustainability as the future of textile industry, how do you think organic cotton and textiles can help boost this sentiment?

Organic textiles are most stringent in terms of criteria. GOTS is a textile processing standard that begins with the first processing activity in textile chain, like ginning for cotton. In order to give a healthy life to our future generations, all of us must have a holistic approach towards our working. We must address the triple bottom line and work towards all the three aspects- People, Planet and Profit.

What are the various steps used by GOTS to propagate this concept of organic textiles? How do you rate its presence?

As an organisation, GOTS has always believed in strong partnerships since its inception. GOTS actively engages with trade and consumer media, government, trade bodies and industry. As their representative in India, I have been participating in several tradeshows, conferences, training programmes, meetings and consultations across the country. Further, we support the stakeholders with several knowledge resources including videos, informational documents, factsheets and so on. We are currently developing a factsheet on correct GOTS Labelling. We are also developing a document that explains how GOTS helps to meet UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I invite you to visit the ‘Information Centre’ on our website. It includes interesting information for both industry and consumers.

What are the present and future plans and strategies of GOTS?

Lately, I have been really occupied with the ‘GOTS Pre-Conference to 19th Organic World Congress’ focused on the theme ‘Social Compliance Issues in Organic Textiles Supply Chain’. It was held on November 8, 2017 in New Delhi and now I am free to focus on next targets.

GOTS is associated with QCI-UNFSS National Platform for Private Sustainability Standards in India and we are engaging with various stakeholders through that platform. We shall also be working towards getting recognition for responsible public procurement in India.

We are also planning to hold a national seminar on GOTS certification in India in year 2018. Please subscribe to GOTS newsletter for more updates.

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