Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin...
Once upon a time all crops were organic*. Then came along the magic bullets of pesticides and insecticides and crops grew big and strong and plentiful. Until they didn't. Until people started realising that the soil was degrading. That chemicals were entering the water streams. And so forth. Read Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.
So for those who wanted still to grow organically and to show that they were growing organically standards and certifications came about. And these were good. And many of the organisations came together to form the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements. Or IFOAM for short.
And hence we have standards and certification for organic cotton farming.
But lo, there came along people who said
'but the processing of cotton usually uses chemicals and other synthetic things. And many of these are really not that great for the environment. Or indeed the people who have to work with them. Surely we don't want them on our lovely organic cotton'.
So different organisations started creating different standards for the ginning and the spinning and the dyeing and the weaving and the knitting and the cutting and the sewing of cotton.
And soon there were a plethora of standards. And the customers began to throw their hands up in despair and say 'this is confusing, you are all doing more or less the same thing, and wanting the same aims, why are you all doing it separately?'
So there was a coming together** of the Soil Association from the UK, OTA from the USA, IVN from Germany and JOCA from Japan, and so the Global Organic Textile Standard, or GOTS for short was created.
GOTS has organic standards for every processor in the textile chain. So the mills, and dye houses and so forth are all certified, by accredited independent certifiers, that they meet those standards. And it has a chain of custody so the organic cotton can be tracked all the way along from the first person to buy it from the organic certified farm.
[Phew, are you still with us. There's just a little bit more.]
Because there are Rules. Not just for those growing and spinning and dyeing and cutting and sewing. But also for us who are designing and selling.
As Arthur & Henry sells direct to you, our customers, from our website, we can use the GOTS logo and don't have to be certified ourselves as a brand or retailer. So you won't find Arthur & Henry on the GOTS database. You will find our factory, which has license number CU 822346, certified by Control Union Certifications.
The GOTS rules mean we can also wholesale a small quantity of shirts to other people. But if we decide to wholesale in a bigger way then we will need to be certified and we will be able to use the Soil Association logo (as we're in the UK).
[UPDATE: sadly not enough customers of our factory were asking for GOTS certified clothing so the factory have not renewed their GOTS certification. We are too small for them to do it just for us.]
So that's the story of GOTS.
*Yes, yes, we remember our science classes too and know that technically all growing things are organic. Compared with inorganic things. But you know what we mean.
**we're writing this the day of the referendum on Scottish independence so we may even say they formed a Union
*** See what we mean about a Union