Target is removing a line of T-shirts with the phrase “100% Organic” after an eagle-eyed Ecotextile News reader in Marin City, Calif. noticed they were in fact made from a 50-50 blend of polyester and rayon.
“We have started the process of removing the items from stores,” the retail chain told the U.K. publication. “We’ve also locked our registers for this item, so guests shouldn’t be able to purchase them if they happen to find them in a store.”
A men’s version of the shirt in red, with a stated fiber content of 50 percent cotton and 50 percent polyester, shows as unavailable on www.target.com, as did a heather-gray women’s V-neck shirt composed of 50 percent polyester and 50 percent rayon. Both shirts, which are part of a Target-exclusive range called Awake, retailed for $14.99.
It is unclear whether Target meant to mislead its customers into thinking the items were made from 100 percent organic cotton. Most signs point to no: Even though an argument can be made for who notices them, the fiber makeups are plainly declared on the garment labels and on the website. Plus, the copy on the shirts’ pages tout them as “fun, casual” garments that are “perfectly in sync with your organic lifestyle,” so they were probably an attempt to seize the zeitgeist more than anything. Still, words matter, especially on a “statement tee” that telegraphs a very specific message.
As H&M learned the hard way after using a black child to model a hoodie with the phrase “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle,” context and intent make a difference. “Organic” may be a mood, but it’s also a regulated concept with set standards—and expectations.
And Target shouldn’t be completely obliviously to this; it’s a founding member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, for one thing. For another, as part of its effort to align itself with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the retailer has pledged to source 100 percent of its cotton from more sustainable sources, including Better Cotton and certified-organic, by 2022.
Intriguingly, Target is also the sponsor of the Cotton Sustainability Challenge, a collaboration with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space to send three projects that could improve the sustainability of cotton production to the International Space Station sometime this year.
On a more micro level, however, Global Organic Textile Standard, which operates one of the most rigorous international standards for organic cotton, is disappointed in Target’s handling of the shirts.
“We are truly saddened when we find such practice,” Claudia Kersten, managing director at the organization, told Ecotextile News.