Little guide to labels in the textile sector

You may notice that some brands and products are certified by labels. However, it is sometimes difficult to find your way around. We'll help you to see more clearly. From the Global Organic Textile Standard label, to the Oeko-Tex label, to the PETA label.

Moving towards eco-responsible and ethical fashion, we notice that some brands and products are certified by labels. However, they are numerous on the market and it is sometimes difficult to find your way around. In this article, we will list the most common labels in the textile sector to help you understand them better.

What is a label?

A label is a distinctive symbol associated with an organisation or a product based on compliance with specifications. They have several functions: 

  • Making the quality of organisations or products a reality 
  • Defining product sustainability 
  • Guarantee the conformity between the commitments mentioned in the specifications and the practices implemented.
  • Enabling citizens to commit to ethical and responsible consumption practices

The labels can be used as a guide to to choose companies that respect human rights and the environment. The prudence remains the rule because some brands label only a part of their collections. Some brands even decide to create their own label to ensure control and audits themselves. As a rice-consumer, you have to be vigilant about the information provided by these brands. In order to know whether a garment is ethical, fair or ecological, it is preferable to take an interest in the entire production chain

Illustration d'exemples de labels.

Label « Global Organic Textile Standard » (GOTS)

Label Global Organic Textile Standard.
Label Global Organic Textile Standard 

Le label « Global Organic Textile Standard » est aujourd’hui une référence dans le domaine de la mode éthique. Il a été créé pour harmoniser les standards internationaux des fibres naturelles et biologiques (coton, laine, soie, chanvre). Le groupe GOTS rassemble des organisations spécialisées dans l’agriculture biologique et dans la production de textile responsable : trois organisations industrielles (OTA aux Etats-Unis, IVN en Allemagne, JOCA au Japon) et une organisation caritative (Soil Association en Grande-Bretagne).

Currently it covers all the production stages: from the harvesting of the raw materials to labelling and packaging. The GOTS label guarantees dignified working conditions, respect for the environment and the health of workers and consumers. 

To obtain this label, finished products must incorporate minimum 70% GOTS certified organic fibres. In some cases, it certifies textile products based on synthetic materials, such as socks or sportswear.

Environmental requirements 
  • Prohibition of the use of toxic products for the environment and health (heavy metals, carcinogenic products, endocrine disruptors, GMOs, etc.). These compounds can pollute water and soil and disrupt ecosystems because they are non-degradable. 
  • Prohibition to use solvents, phthalates or PVC for printing methods
  • Minimisation des déchets et des rejets produits par la fabrication de vêtements 
  • Use of 100% recyclable packaging 
  • Sewage treatment in sewage treatment plants 
Social requirements 

To define these criteria, the GOTS label is based on the conventions of the International Labour Organisation. 

  • Establishing adequate wages and decent working hours 
  • Abolish child labour, forced labour and all forms of inhuman treatment or discrimination.
  • Granting freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively 
  • Improving working conditions through proper hygiene and safety conditions 

In addition to this, the GOTS label ensures a certain durability of the products. The products must have good resistance to washing, shrinkage, perspiration and rubbing. 

Label « Oeko-Tex »

Label Oeko-Tex.
Label Oeko-Tex

It is one of the most present labels on the market, both on the slow fashion and the fast fashion side. Oeko-Tex is a German association of 18 independent research institutes. It has set up several labels with very strict specifications for manufacturers wishing to control each stage of their production chain. There are three variants of the "Oeko-Tex" label: Oeko-Tex Standard 100, Oeko-Tex Step and Oeko-TEX Made in Green. 

Here we will only talk about the label Oeko-Tex Standard 100. This is the first label created in 1992 by the International Association for Research and Testing of Ecological Textiles. This label controls the presence or absence of polluting, carcinogenic and allergenic substances in each component of a garment (raw materials and intermediate products). The Oeko-Tex label certifies as many natural and synthetic raw materials as the GOTS label. This certification also requires compliance with environmental criteria such as energy saving in manufacturing. 

The verification steps are very strict. First of all, the technical file is rigorously analysed. Then, laboratory tests are carried out on samples of each item of clothing. If the company responds positively, it must then accept an on-site audit (renewable every three years). They also carry out random checks to ensure compliance with the specifications. 

Label « People for Ethical Treatment of Animals » (PETA)

Label PETA.
Label PETA

"People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal is an international non-profit organisation. The objective is to protect the right and dignity of animals. The organisation PETA and its members raise public and political awareness for animal protection. It also promotes the right of all animals to be treated with respect.

PETA certified products must not contain any animal material (fur, leather, silk, wool or down). To obtain this label, companies must fill in a questionnaire and sign a "declaration of assurance" stating that their products do not contain any animal material. 

Label Fairtrade International

Label Fairtrade International.
Label Fairtrade International

You probably already know about fair trade but did you know that there is a specific label? It has been created by the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations (FLO), an association of Fairtrade labels in several countries. This label guarantees that the cotton used for a garment has been grown by small producers certified for Fairtrade. Farmers receive a minimum price and a premium to finance community projects. They also commit themselves to to respect social and ecological criteria. The transparency is important throughout the processing chain so that each product meets standards controlled and recognised by the foundation. Finally, this ensures sustainable trade relations and a fair and stable price. They check the structure of each organisation as well as the environmental measures and the safety of the employees. 

Environmental requirements 
  • Acting against climate change in a sustainable way 
  • Developing organic crops and crops that preserve the environment 
  • Protecting natural resources 
  • Ban the use of dangerous pesticides and GMOs
  • Assist Fairtrade networks to organise training, advice sessions, etc. 
  • Ensuring sustainable financing of climate projects 
Social requirements 
  • Organising democratic cooperatives and giving the right to participate in the decision-making process
  • Providing opportunities to form trade union organisations 
  • Etablir des conditions de travail réglementées suivant le « Standard Fairtrade pour les travailleur·euse·s salarié·e·s » et le « Standard pour le textile »
  • Protecting health and safety in the workplace 
  • Provide equal rights and wages for all workers 
  • Prohibit discrimination, child and forced labour 

Fair Wear Foundation (FWF)

Label Fair Wear Foundation.
Label Fair Wear Foundation

The Fair Wear Foundation is an organisation set up by different actors (Clean Clothes Campaign, trade unions, NGOs, business federations). It aims to monitor and improve working conditions in the textile industry by collaborating with member companies. The FairWear Foundation's Labour Code is based on standard practices inspired by the conventions of the International Labour Organisation and the International Declaration of Human Rights.

This foundation is concentrated on the stages of confection which require more labour such as sewing and cutting. The associated brands carry out regular checks in their factories. In addition, evaluations are organised in the form of interviews with the workers. audits are also carried out to check health and safety standards

For your information, the FWF does not issue labels like those mentioned above. Above all, it encourages companies to move towards an ethical approach in the production and distribution of clothing. By displaying the logo Fair Wear in their communication, they show their support in concrete terms. 

Social requirements  
  • Prohibit forced and bonded labour 
  • Prohibit all forms of discrimination in relation to the employment relationship (recruitment, salaries, training, promotions, pensions, etc.). 
  • Abolish child labour. The minimum age for work should not be less than 15 years. 
  • Interdire toute forme d’esclavagisme ou pratique associée (ex : trafic d’enfants) 
  • Authorising the constitution and membership of a trade union 
  • Verser des salaires suffisants pour répondre aux besoins fondamentaux des travailleur·euse·s 
  • Establishing decent working hours in line with industry standards 
  • Ensuring a safe and hygienic working environment and good health and safety practices
  • Prohibit intimidation of an employer (threats, punishments, unusual discipline, sexual harassment, physical violence...) 

We hope that this short guide has been useful and that the subject interests you. See you soon for a next article!


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