Ask for Page 2: Why GOLS and GOTS Should Offer Different Logos for Their Different Certifications

One of our retailers recently asked an important question: Are different certifications issued within the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) and the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)?

The answer is YES.GOTS and GOLSDID YOU KNOW… that the above seals, one from each of these USDA-approved third-party organic content certifiers, can have different meanings and levels of certification?

BE AWARE – Consumers need to be aware that GOLS and GOTS seals by themselves do not distinguish between FINISHED PRODUCT CERTIFICATIONS and INDIVIDUAL COMPONENT CERTIFICATION FOR A RAW MATERIAL (unless you read Page 2)!

DON’T BE FOOLED – One manufacturer of a complex textile, such as a mattress, may show either of the seals next to a finished product when only one of many components and sub-assemblies has actually been certified organic.

So what are the differences, and how can you distinguish between them?

GOLS Logo

GOLS and GOTS offer two different organic certifications:

1. A finished-product organic certification, and

2. An organic certification for individual components of a product, which is usually issued to growers or yarn producers, not to the manufacturer.

KNOW WHAT QUESTIONS TO ASK – First, ask to see a copy of a certification, and make certain that it is in the manufacturer’s name and that the date is current. Usually you will find that certifications from growers merely show that a crop or component went through a third-party audit for organic certification, and that the grower’s certificates are NOT TRANSFERABLE.

Certificates must be in the name of the producer. Each retailer claiming the GOLS or GOTS seal must be audited in order to assure consumers that they have purchased the claimed organic component and that is has been used in their actual product.

MISLEADING – Placing the seal next to an image of a finished product such as a mattress gives the impression that the final or finished product has been audited and has met the stringent requirements of a total CERTIFIED ORGANIC PRODUCT.

For example, the GOLS certification offers two different label-grading designations:

  1. A manufacturer can label their finished product “Certified Organic” if the product contains 95% or more certified organic latex and other certified organic material. In addition, the manufacturer must submit to a third-party audit to prove their claims.
  1. A manufacturer can label a product “Made with X% of Organic.” They are claiming that if their product contains a minimum of 70% certified organic latex and they have submitted their product to an independent third-party audit to prove their claims, they are entitled to claim a “Made With” designation. (Without the audit, how can a consumer verify what they “claim”?)

gots-logo_rgbMany everyday consumers do not know to look for this labeling or to ask for Page 2, and they do not understand what it means. Unfortunately, GOLS and GOTS do not have different logos to distinguish between finished-product certification and other certifications.

GOLS and GOTS use the same logo for all of their certifications.

This creates confusion in the marketplace, with consumers thinking they are purchasing something that may not be what they think they are purchasing.

Here are a few examples of how this could confuse the average consumer:

1. If a MATTRESS is marketed as GOLS-certified it should hold the finished-product certification, rather than just component/process certifications in their company name.

2. For instance, a mattress that is composed of both certified organic latex and memory foam would not hold the finished-product certification, because the memory foam does not meet the standards for nontoxic materials.

3. A mattress composed of a 100% “natural” (as opposed to certified organic) latex core with a GOTS-certified organic cotton cover may hold a GOTS component certification in the manufacturer’s name for the fabric only, but it would be highly unlikely. The mattress as a whole would not be certified organic. Simply showing the fabric manufacturer’s GOTS certification on a website does not prove to consumers that they actually purchased the material or that it has been used in the product. Third-party audits mean everything!

All of these scenarios represent a time when each of these manufacturers could slap identical certification seals on their websites and the everyday consumer would have a hard time recognizing the differences between them.

Click here >> for more information on the different GOLS and GOTS certifications, along with their labeling requirements.

Are there federal requirements for calling a mattress “organic”?

Answer: Yes. And verifying these requirements is the only way to make sure you’re not falling victim to fraudulent advertising claims when shopping for an organic mattress.

The government agency that controls use of the word “organic” is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), under Title XXI of the 1990 Farm Bill, otherwise known as The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.

This Act established national standards governing the marketing of certain agricultural products as organically produced products in order to assure consumers that organically produced products meet a consistent standard and to facilitate fairness within interstate commerce.

USDA control over use of the word “organic” extends to non-edible agricultural crops such as cotton and rubber trees, and further extends to non-edible products derived from livestock, such as wool.

To call any of these raw materials “organic,” each producer must meet the requirements listed in the Act and subject its facility and products to annual audit by a USDA-approved “certifying agent.”

Furthermore, for a complex finished textile product, such as a mattress, to be called organic it must be composed of a minimum of 95% certified raw materials as listed above. Then independently, the company manufacturing the mattress must also meet the requirements as listed in the Act and to subject its facility and finished products to an independent annual textile audit to standards such as GOTS, by a USDA-approved certifying agent.

Therefore, to call a mattress “organic” or to sell it as such, the company producing the mattress must earn independent organic status and be awarded an organic certificate annually in their name. This means that a mattress cannot be called organic simply because it is made up of one, some, or even all organic raw materials. It is the “certifying agent” that substantiates that the organic claim being made is actually true. It must be a USDA-approved certifying agent, who through an audit process can give a company legitimate claim or right to use the term “organic.”

Legislation in the United States established the Federal Trade Commission Act in1914. Under this Act, the Commission is empowered to, among other things, prevent unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive consumer acts or representations affecting commerce.

If a company calls its product “organic” and its facility, methods, and specific products have not been awarded organic status by a USDA-approved certifying agent, that claim is deceptive, and constitutes an unfair method of competition in the marketplace. Unfair marketing claims fall under the purview of the FTC.

Specific to environmental claims, the FTC has published the “Green Guide.” While the guide defines a number of environmental terms and correct use and association of logos and seals, the primary emphasis of the document is substantiation. Environmental marketing claims must be substantiated.

Section 5 of the FTC Act prohibits deceptive acts and practices in or affecting commerce. A representation, omission, or practice is deceptive if it is likely to mislead consumers acting reasonably under the circumstances and is material to consumers’ decisions. See FTC Policy Statement on Deception, 103 FTC 174 (1983). To determine if an advertisement is deceptive, marketers must identify all express and implied claims that the advertisement reasonably conveys. Marketers must ensure that all reasonable interpretations of their claims are truthful, not misleading, and supported by a reasonable basis before they make the claims. See FTC Policy Statement Regarding Advertising Substantiation, 104 FTC 839 (1984).

In the context of environmental marketing claims, a reasonable basis often requires competent and reliable scientific evidence. Such evidence consists of tests, analyses, research, or studies that have been conducted and evaluated in an objective manner by qualified persons and are generally accepted in the profession to yield accurate and reliable results. Such evidence should be sufficient in quality and quantity based on standards generally accepted in the relevant scientific fields, when considered in light of the entire body of relevant and reliable scientific evidence, to substantiate that each of the marketing claims is true.

James Kohm is the Associate Director for the Enforcement Division of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. In that capacity, he oversees enforcement of all consumer protection orders and the Commission’s Green Marketing program. When Mr. Kohm spoke on January 27, 2013 at the World Market Center, he made clear that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) does not define what is or can be called organic. The FTC can conduct investigations relating to the organization, business, practices, and management of entities engaged in commerce and seek monetary redress and other relief for conduct injurious to consumers and other businesses from unsubstantiated environmental claims.

At OMI, we’ve worked hard to establish and maintain a comprehensive organic program. This ensures the creation and assurance of certified organic goods. Testing, quality assurance, lot tracking, purchasing organic raw materials (despite the higher cost), and spending thousands annually on auditing are just a few of the ways in which we keep our rigorous organic program in place. Third-party certification is the only thing protecting us from companies that do none of these things, but would try nevertheless to reap marketing dollars by fraudulently associating the term “organic” with their products.

It does not fall to the consumer or retailer to judge what is or is not organic. For a company to call its products “organic” it must have been granted organic status by a USDA-approved “certifying agent.” The consumer need only confirm a valid certificate with the company’s name and products listed, not a certification showing the name of a grower or producer. At OMI, we’ve covered all the bases, so you can “rest” assured you’re purchasing a TRULY organic mattress.

FTC Cracks Down on Manufacturer Greenwashing

FTC-logo

An important announcement yesterday from the Federal Trade Commission marked a major accomplishment in the fight against greenwashing. At OMI, it is our goal always to offer the purest products available, and it is great to see that fraudulent greenwashing claims are being prosecuted by our governmental agencies charged with protecting consumers. This will help consumers determine what is truly organic and healthy and what is just marketing hype.

The FTC has brought actions against manufactures and/or retailers for the following false assurances:

  • Claiming products do not contain formaldehyde, toluene, or phenols in their latex mattresses
  • Claiming their rubber is “chemical free”
  • Claiming that their mattresses contain no toxic substances
  • Claiming that their mattresses contain fewer contaminants and chemicals than other companies’ memory foam or latex mattresses
  • Inadequate tests that show their mattresses do not contain any VOCs or chemicals
  • Ficticous and misleading logos
  • False certifications

Here is an excerpt from the July 25th, 2013 FTC announcement:

“Under settlements with the Federal Trade Commission, three mattress manufacturers have agreed to stop making unsupported claims that the mattresses they sell are free of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
 
In addition to challenging the companies’ VOC-free claims, the FTC charged that two of the companies made unsupported claims that their mattresses were chemical-free and lacked odor.  The FTC also challenged one company’s claim that its mattresses are made from 100 percent natural materials, and another company’s claim that its mattresses were certified by an organic mattress organization.

In settling the FTC’s charges, the companies have agreed not to make similar claims in the future, unless they have competent and reliable scientific evidence to prove they are true.  In addition, one company is barred from making misrepresentations about certifications.”

For the full article and links for more information on the FTC announcement, click HERE.

To see a full list of OMI’s certifications, see our Purity Guarantee HERE.