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Keeping Up With the Apparel Industry’s Certification Standards

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GOTS. Oeko-Tex. SMaRT. When it comes to selecting materials that can be certified to specific standards, it’s like swimming in alphabet soup, as Tricia Carey, director of business development for denim at Austrian fiber maker Lenzing, put it Monday during a Texworld USA discussion titled “Latest on Standards and Sustainability.”

Panel moderator Karla Macgruder, the founder and president of Fabrikology, asked, “How do we think that all of these different standards could work together to make it easier for [brands and retailers] to get involved?”

“I think there will be a little bit of a shakedown in years to come over which [certifications] actually offer the most and give that assurance,” Carey continued, pointing out that in terms of down, there are two but the industry is starting to lean more towards the Responsible Down Standard. “So I think we’ll see organizations start to work together more, whether through Textile Exchange or the Outdoor Industry Association and go from there.”

Sandra Marquardt, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) representative for North America, agreed. “The other angle that we hear most about in the sustainability sector is it’s kind of like a race to the top, instead of a race to the bottom, which has been the divisional way of doing things,” she said, adding, “You’ve got companies around the world across entire chains that are all getting together and saying how can we make our products better and say they’re good quality, they’re attractive, they last for a long time and they meet stringent environmental standards.”

Until such time as it becomes less confusing for sustainability newcomers, Carey proposed the following advice: “It’s important to educate yourself and to align with a group from whom you know you can reliably get up-to-date information,” she said, noting that it’s also important to have some kind of benchmark strategy in place, so brands know what point they’re starting from and where they would like to end up in terms of how much product they want to have registered and by when.

But first: “Definitely seek out expert advice to be able to get the right roadmap that you need,” she stressed.

“I would also suggest joining the organizations that are leading the charge to create really stringent standards to promote and protect them,” Marquardt suggested. “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. They have lawyers. They have people monitoring all of this because that’s what they’re doing. You can get on with your product lines.”

She added, “I would also say in terms of which standards to get involved with, separate the wheat from the chaff. There are some very leading standards out there that people are certified to already. You don’t need to get certified to every single standard. Figure out what your goal is, what your plan is, where you are focusing and focus on the standard that makes sense for you.”

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