Frequently Asked Questions

All About Organic

The term organic describes a method of farming without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides or fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation or genetic engineering, and are certified by an accredited independent organization. It is a system of farming that strives for a balance with nature, using methods and materials that are of low impact to the environment.

The US the standard is the USDA National Organic Program (NOP). The EU standard is the EC 834/2007. The Japanese standard is JAS. India and Australia also have organic standards.

Certification is done by independent, third party certifiers accredited to the standards being certified against.

* Submit application to accredited independent 3rd party certifier * Develop Farm Plan for Ecosystem Management * Develop an Internal Control System, includes record keeping * Annual Inspections by certifier * Transition period of 2-3 years depending on standard


There is some variation in these steps, depending on the farming standards.

The major differences are in the following categories: seeds, weed control, soil and water and harvest practice. For more information, check out our organic cotton pamphlet or Symbiosis booklet.

Currently India produces the most, followed by Turkey and Syria.

Through crop rotation, promotion of soil health, and through an absence of agriculture chemicals that effect the ability of wild life and insects around the farm to thrive.

Organic Exchange produces a Fiber Report annually, the first one was issued in 2006. The Organic Farm & Fiber Report is distributed at no charge to members at the $500 level and above, or is for sale at $400. The report details fiber production globally by region and country, gives estimates for the coming seasons production and lists farming projects.

Besides being an integral part of farming organically and required under organic standards to enhance the quality of the soil. Rotation crops provide food security and alternative sources of income for farming communities.

Organic is beneficial to the environment; beneficial to farmers, their families and their communities and gives added value for retailers.

All About Labeling

The most important thing is that you are willing and able to provide proof of any product claim. Standards, verified by an independent third-party, are often the best way to provide that proof. There are a number of standards to support a number of claims. The Organic Content Standard can be used to support organic content claims, and the TE Recycled Claim Standard can be used to support recycled content claims. The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the most widely used standard to support comprehensive organic product claims.

Legal labeling requirements apply in the country where products are being sold. For example, if a shirt is made in India and sold in the U.S., the label must comply with the laws of the U.S., set by the NOP, governing the use of the term organic. The product label must also comply with the marketing laws of the U.S., set by the Federal Trade Commission. Voluntary standards, however, are those set by private or non-governmental organizations. Examples include the Organic Content Standard (OCS), TE Recycled Claim Standard (RCS), and GOTS. There is no legal requirement to follow these standards, but they offer many advantages such as a clear protocol for supply chains to follow, assured product integrity, increased validity to marketing claims, and third party verification.

All About Certification

The Content Claim Standard (CCS) can be used to establish the chain of custody for any material. You can specify the material you would like to track and certification will use those input requirements and then use the same system of transaction certificates to follow the materials to the final product.

A chain of custody is a system that does two things 1) maintains the identity of the input materials and 2) follows the materials as they move through production. An established chain of custody requires that each facility involved in production takes the steps to preserve the materials’ identity and make sure that information follows the product. When a brand wants to verify a claim about a final product, establishing the chain of custody from where the material enters the supply chain up to the final product is very important. Each step in the chain must take steps to ensure the claim is met. TE standards use scope certificates and transaction certificates to establish the chain of custody.

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) can be used to verify the amount of organic materials in a product, and also has strict environmental, social, and chemical requirements to create the highest organic textile standard.


The Global Recycle Standard (GRS) verifies the amount of recycled content in a product while also including environmental and social requirements that facilities must follow. The GRS v3 will be released in 2014, and will also include chemical requirements.


Some standards only cover these types of processing requirements. STeP covers environmental, social and chemical requirements and bluesign covers chemical use. For a list of standards used in textiles, see our list:

Certification is a method to check that a supplier or facility is following an established set of guidelines. The set of guidelines can be an internal set of requirements, a voluntary standard, or an international regulation. If a facility elects to become certified to a standard, they invite a third-party to come into their facility for an inspection of their operations and written records. The set of guidelines can vary widely. Environmental standards may require facilities to measure things like water use or energy use. Social standards can be used to prevent child labor or forced overtime. Textile Exchange standards are used to track raw materials to the final products and to make sure that final product claims are accurate.

A transaction certificate is how information about a material and products passes from one facility to the next. The information is checked and signed by the same certification body that did the inspection. This document proves that the products listed on the document have met the requirements of the standard listed on the certificate.

The Organic Content Standard (OCS) can be used to establish and verify the chain of custody for organic material in products. Certified organic raw materials are followed through the supply chain using transaction certificates. If you receive a transaction certificate for the products you have ordered, you can be sure that the content has been checked by an independent third-party. The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) also establishes the same chain of custody for organic materials; this standard also includes additional environmental, social, and chemical requirements.

A scope certificate is a document issued by a certification body. When a facility applies to become certified to a particular standard, a scope certificate is the proof they have passed their inspection. This is proof that a facility is able to produce goods that meet the requirements of the standard listed on their certificate. It does not prove that any particular products actually have met the requirements of the standard.

The Content Claim Standard (CCS) can be used to establish the chain of custody for any material. You can specify the material you would like to track and certification will use those input requirements and then use the same system of transaction certificates to follow the materials to the final product.

The TE Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) checks the input material to make sure it is actually recycled, and then follows the material through the supply chain in the same way as the Organic Content Standard. The Global Recycle Standard (GRS) also establishes the chain of custody for product with recycled materials, and also includes additional environmental and social requirements.

There are a number of factors that affect the cost of certification. Each certification body uses their own pricing structure, and costs are also influenced by:

- location of the factory from the certification body: the factory will have to pay for the travel costs

- the complexity of the factory operations: this will affect the number of days that an inspector must spend at the facility

- initial level of compliance by the factory: if a factory is well organized and following all of the right steps to ensure the integrity of their cotton, then only a single inspection should be needed.  However, if major non-conformities are noted, then the factory will have the cost of correcting them, as well as a second inspection.  

- transaction certificates: the factory must request a transaction certificate for each shipment of certified goods sent out, and there is a small fee that is paid to the certification body.  On larger shipments this fee is very minor, but it can add up if there are numerous small shipments


The pricing structure of the different certification bodies varies, and should be available on their website or by request.  It is generally composed of a number of elements:

- daily fee for inspector

- travel costs for inspector

- evaluation of inspection report and certification decision (done by the head office)

- any fees connected to the standards (for TE standards, the fee ranges from $50-$100 per certified facility per year)

 In most cases, the company being certified will pay for the cost of certification. They will contract directly with a certification body. The supplier can offer their certified products to all customers, and as volume builds, spread out the certification costs.

In some cases, a brand or retailer may choose to pay for the certification costs of one or more suppliers. This might be done when only their products need to be certified, and the supplier has no incentive to become certified otherwise. While this may be a good way to get started, it does not create incentive for the supplier to bring in more customers for its organic goods.

All About Transitional Cotton

There is a 3 year period under the NOP Standard and a 2 year period under the EEC 2092/2091 Standard for farmers transitioning their land to organic production from conventional production. Cotton in transition, transitional cotton or cotton in conversion, is cotton being grown on land in the transitional period according to the organic standard.

In order to best grow the industry, we need to ensure and encourage enough farmers are moving from conventional to organic farming. Crop yields are typically lower and risks higher during the transition, so farmers are at financial risk, we need to support them so that they thrive and survive. Value will be added to the cotton and thus a better price for the farmer if a label can be used to identify that the cotton is transitioning to organic.

Farmers, the land and the cotton being grown in transition to organic must be under the supervision of an accredited certifying body. This means that adherence to organic standards starts immediately. So all organic standards, such as no chemicals on the land are being followed during this 3 year period.

All About Genetically Modified Organisms and GM Foods

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered. The technology is often called “modern biotechnology” or “gene technology”, sometimes also “recombinant DNA technology” or “genetic engineering”. It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between non-related species.

There are many varieties of GM cotton, BT is the most well known. BT cotton is genetically engineered to resist insects with the addition of a deadly bacteria called bacillus thuringiensis. Over 83% of the conventional cotton grown in the US is GM.

No, none of the organic growing standards established by any government allow for GMO’s. In fact, the EEC has restricted the use of GMO’s in all farming in the EU.

  • Flow of enhanced genetic material through cross pollination to other related crops and wild plants.
  • Genetically engineered plants which are designed to kill pests may kill beneficial insects which would result in loss of biodiversity and the benefits these insects bring to the crop.
  • Questionable validity of industry data concerning reduced pesticide and/or herbicide use with GM crops as promised.
  • Genetic engineering to develop insect resistant crops may encourage the faster development of resistance to pest control products in insect populations, thereby leading to the use of more or stronger pesticides.
  • Seed security as seeds are patented so that a farmer can not collect seeds from a gm crop to sow the following season. New seeds need to be purchased.

Yes, CERT ID is a global company active in providing third-party certification programs to growers, agricultural processors, food ingredient producers, food and feed manufacturers, animal producers and food retailers. CERT ID offers traceability solutions that deliver certainty, transparency and safety.

All About Sourcing

Visit the Textile Exchange Member Directory for up-to-date profiles of Textile Exchange members.


You can also find a list of suppliers certified to Textile Exchange standards on their corresponding webpages.


Organic Content Standard:


Global Recycle Standard: