From the Ground Up
After the apparel is fully assembled, there are a few other production steps distributors should be attentive to. Alisa Buckner, director of merchandise and marketing for Independence, Missouri-based Dunbrooke, explained further. “We use eco-friendly/azo-free chemicals,” she said, adding that the absence of such chemicals causes organic shirts to typically have a more muted color, because they are made without bleach or other brightening chemicals. Azo chemical compounds are a popular coloring agent due to their ability to create bright hues, however, some components of the compound are believed to be carcinogenic.
Aside from the dyeing process, Buckner raised a cautionary point. Once the product is fully completed and shipped, the umbrella of organic production ends. Distributors concerned with eco-friendly shipping or storage practices may have extra research on their hands.
SEAL OF APPROVAL
In understanding how organics are made, the knowledge of who is actually doing the certifying is equally important. Organic cotton certifiers range from government bodies and trade unions to watchdog organizations and risk-management firms. The groups monitor either a facet or the entirety of production, verifying the manufacturing company does not stray from its organic promise, as well as passing all pertinent information on to the supplier. Buckner gave a little detail on how data is shared. “Literally each shipment we bring in could have between one and four different certificates that come with it,” she said. “In those certificates, it provides all the information, … we can actually paper-trail it back.”
The possible number of seals Buckner mentioned stems from cotton’s complex manufacturing cycle, as well as the potential variances in supply chains. Because organic cotton standards require that its growth, harvesting, processing, weaving and finishing all have certifications for the item to be considered 100 percent organic, both the organic monitoring process and production can be split several ways. Some companies may only have one organic certification if they use a single risk-management firm or handle all growth and manufacturing in-house. Others may have many more, depending on where their cotton is grown, who is spinning and finishing it, who they use for certification, and if they get their cotton from multiple sources.