GOTS certified cotton production sustains the health of soil, ecosystems and people by working with nature to support the growth of healthy crops, such as using rainfall rather than irrigation which adds pressure to precious water sources. Organic farmers avoid synthetic pesticides and fertilisers, toxic chemicals and GMOs, benefitting human health by eliminating hazardous toxic pesticides from water, soil and air, particularly important in low-income and water-scarce countries, where the majority of cotton is produced. The GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) is based on on-site inspection and certification of the entire textile supply chain.
A textile product carrying the GOTS label must contain a minimum of 70% certified organic fibres. If all farming was organic, research suggests that pesticide use would almost cease to exist. Organic farmers and their families are not exposed to chemical toxins, meaning they can grown food on their land, with crop diversity being an important part of organic farming. GOTS-certified workplaces mean that workers have their human rights respected; receive fair pay, and work in safe, hygienic conditions. These standards also prohibit coercion, discrimination, excessive hours, child labor and inhumane treatment.
Conventional cotton crops rely on irrigation, requiring 2,700 litres of water to make a single t-shirt. By comparison, according to the Water Footprint Network, an organic cotton t-shirt uses 273 litres.
The avoidance of fertilisers and chemicals in organic farming also means water pollution is reduced by 98% compared to conventional cotton. Conventional cotton is grown on the same oil time and time again, degrading soil quality, removing nutrients and leading to unhealthy crops. These unhealthy crops require more water and are irrigated heavily, resulting in water wastage, whereas organic cotton is regularly rotated from one soil to another resulting in healthier crops. Organic cotton is generally grown on small-scale farms and hand-picked, preserving the purity of every fibre and ensuring that no fibre is damaged. Damage caused by machine picking can lead to waste. By using less machinery, organic cotton is responsible for 46% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional cotton. By virtue of being free from fertilisers and pesticides, soil used to grow organic cotton also acts as a carbon sink, absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere.