In the Winter 2013 issue of BEDROOM, we outlined some of the certification programs to which more and more bedding manufacturers are turning as a bench marking tool as well as a way to verify green material claims.
Third party certifications provide a national and/or global standard for sustainable processing methods. Such standards apply to more than just the manufacturing of organic raw materials—they also concern packaging, labeling, trading, and distribution, in addition to social concerns, such as human health, safety and welfare, and the environment.
But how exactly does a company become certified?
We met with Robert Demianew, Vice President of Control Union USA—the organization that oversees the Global Organic Latex Standard and the Global Organic Textile Standard certification processes—who shed some light on the certification process the Control Union uses for its numerous certifications. We also spoke to Angela Owen, president of Suite Sleep, who was able to give us a first-hand account of her company’s experience with the GOTS certification process.
Once a company has decided to become certified, there are a few steps they must go through:
1. Contact the Control Union. Manufacturers can discuss products and sourcing policies with the organization to determine the correct fit for their green certification.
2. Fill out an application form. Completing the application form provides additional background on the company, its products and its manufacturing process.
3. Control Union extends an offer letter. Outlining the details and necessary costs of the certification process. Company signs offer letter. Acknowledging its acceptance into the certification program.
4. A date is assigned for a company audit.
5. Review of documents. Company has time to review its documents and procedures to align with the certification. Certification. Once it has been determined that every aspect aligns with standards, certification is issued.
The application is a standard form that can be found on the Control Union’s website (certification.controlunion.com). It covers basic company information, including which products are to be evaluated, the activities of all processing units, and travel time between the various production and processing units. Companies can certify their products on an individual basis.
The Control Union estimates that it takes around six to eight weeks for a certification to be issued, though for smaller companies, like Suite Sleep, it may take longer to address all open issues.
Owen recently made the decision to certify the Suite Sleep pillow collection under the GOTS certification. “While we know our products have some of the best, certified organic ingredients in the industry, we are competing with those who have the seals and certificates to prove it.” She soon found that the certification process was concerned with much more than just the raw goods. There are series of testing, employee management processes, traceability systems, and inspection schedules to be implemented as well. Additionally, the company must create manuals, tracking systems, and guidelines for everything from inventory control to social labor issues.
The process applies to more than just the main manufacturer as well. Demaniew emphasized the fact that most certification programs require a company to do a comprehensive evaluation of its entire manufacturing supply chain. This chain of custody ensures that every aspect of production was properly certified by requiring each supplier to request its own certificates for specific transactions. It also assures that the supplier does not supply more of the product than what was purchased. “Integrity is hugely important,” Demianew stressed. “Suppliers will not be able to simply buy volume and make public claims without their proving they’re a certified participant.” For Suite Sleep, this meant rethinking many of the manufacturing relationships the company had formed over the years.
What drives most companies to certification, despite the sometimes-arduous process, is the desire for transparency. “More and more,” Owen explained, “customers are looking at the proof behind the claims.” Both she and Demaniew pointed to the prevalence of “green-washing” in the bedding industry. “There are so many terms that currently are unregulated, like ‘natural’, ‘green’, and others,” Demaniew elaborated. “We believe third party certification brings additional assurance to the supply chain and ultimately to the consumer.”