The Global Recycled Standard (GRS) is an international standard that sets requirements for third-party certification of recycled input.
The GRS is a full product standard that dictates social and environmental best practices, as well as chemical restrictions for fabrics, clothing, garments, accessories, and more.
The goal of the Global Recycled Standard is to drive higher percentages of recycled content in products and reduce the harmful impact of production on people and the environment.
When it comes to the recycled content of clothing, the GRS confirms a responsible use of resources and processes that have the least possible impact on human health and the planet.
The Global Recycled Standard verifies recycled content in products to empower consumers to make informed decisions and is a widely recognized standard around the globe.
Certification standards matter, especially in the textile and apparel industry, to guarantee that manufacturers use sustainable production processes, environmentally friendly, and socially responsible working conditions.
When shopping for clothes made from recycled materials, choose items that have been audited externally and verified according to the highest standards, such as the GRS certification.
Here is everything you need to know about the Global Recycled Standard, one of the best certification standards for textiles.
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Global Recycled Standard criteria
The GRS certification guarantees the following:
- requirements of the Content Claim Standard
- at least 20% of certified recycled materials
- traceability from recycled to the final product
- ethical and responsible production
- chemical restrictions for any toxic inputs
- environmentally friendly practices in production
Only products with at least 50% of recycled content qualify for product-specific GRS labeling.
The Global Recycled Standard applies to the following textile products:
- recycled garments, clothes, and final textile products
- recycled home textiles
- recycled fabrics
- recycled yarns
- recycled fibers
- recycled metal
- recycled plastic
- recycled paper
The GRS certification applies to the following supply chain sites:
- weaving and knitting
- dyeing and printing
- cutting and sewing
The GRS aligns with recycled definitions across multiple applications and follows the ISO 14021 definition, with interpretations based on the United States Federal Trade Commission Green Guides.
The Global Recycled Standard does not address quality or legal compliance. The GRS is a voluntary standard that doesn't replace the legal or regulatory requirements of any country.
What is the Global Recycled Standard (GRS)?
The Global Recycled Standard (GRS) is an internationally recognized standard that provides companies with a tool to verify that one or more specific input material is in a final product. You can find GRS certified units in more than 50 countries.
The global nonprofit Textile Exchange maintains the GRS. It develops and promotes a suite of leading industry standards, as well as collects and publishes critical industry data and insights.
The Textile Exchange also manages Content Claim Standard (CCS), the Recycled Claim Standard (RCS), the Organic Content Standard (OCS), the Responsible Down Standard (RDS), and the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS).
Control Union Certifications (CU) originally developed the Global Recycled Standard (GRS) in 2008. The Textile Exchange acquired ownership in January 2011.
The latest version of the standard, GRS 4.0, replaced the previous version, GRS 3.0, in July 2017. The next scheduled revision of the GRS is in 2021.
The Global Recycled Standard tracks certified recycled materials in the whole supply chain, from the first processor to the final product. Each organization along the value chain is required to ensure the integrity of the input material.
The GRS label has strict guidelines and certification processes. It verifies the recycled content of textile products, backed by independent certification of the input material.
To become GRS certified, raw materials, intermediates, and final textile products must take sufficient steps to preserve the identity of the input material.
The Global Recycled Standard covers companies in ginning, spinning, weaving, knitting, dyeing, printing, cutting, and stitching of all textiles made with at least 20% of certified recycled content.
The aim of Global Recycled Standard certification
The GRS certification aims to increase the use of recycled materials. It provides a tool for companies to validate and communicate sustainability claims about their products.
In the global textile and apparel industry, the raw material level has one of the most significant impacts and is the farthest way away from the consumer.
The GRS certification verifies essential practices at the beginning of the supply chain and tracks the material to the final product. It offers brand protection, confidence in sourcing, and greater credibility.
The Global Recycled Standard verifies responsible social, environmental, and chemical practices in the production of recycled products.
It provides transparent, consistent, and comprehensive independent evaluation and verification of recycled material content claims on products.
The GRS certification ensures that sustainability commitments lead to meaningful and positive change. It uses an independent third-party certification process to ensure that products adhere to recycled content requirements.
By verifying the claims made to consumers, the GRS certification provides a credible voice for suppliers and brands. It leads to higher confidence with a system of standards recognized internationally.
The Global Recycled Standard defines requirements to guarantee reliable content claims as well as socially compliant working conditions in the supply chain. It also ensures the least possible environmental and chemical impacts.
The GRS also drives the industry to move faster towards progress on sustainability goals. It defines globally recognized requirements that ensure the recycled status of textiles, from raw material harvesting to the final product.
The Global Recycled Standard provides a credible assurance to the end consumer. It allows textile processors and manufacturers to export their recycled fabrics and garments with one certification accepted in all major markets.
The GRS is also an active contributor to sustainable development. It pushes recycled textiles to become a significant part of everyday life, enhancing human lives and the environment.
What does GRS certified mean?
The GRS certification is an international, voluntary, full product standard that sets requirements for third-party verification of the chain of custody, recycled content, social and environmental practices, and chemical restrictions.
GRS certified recycled products must contain a minimum of 50% of recycled and sustainably processed material.
The recycled content in textile products must receive adequate identification and traceability along the entire chain of custody. Each stage of production is required to be certified.
The GRS uses the ISO 14021 definition of recycled content, with interpretations based on the US Federal Trade Commission Green Guides.
The GRS certification applies to both pre-consumer (or post-industrial) and post-consumer recycled material content.
The Global Recycled Standard restricts the use of hazardous chemicals in the processing of GRS products but doesn't address the substances present in the reclaimed materials or what may be present in final GRS products.
The GRS excludes:
- inherently problematic substances classified as dangerous to human health or the environment by REACH ((EC) No 1907/2006)
- substances and mixtures classified with particular hazard codes or risk phrases
- substances that don't comply with ZDHC’s Manufacturer’s Restricted Substance List (MRSL)
GRS certified organizations must also demonstrate their compliance with the GRS environmental requirements, including:
- environmental management system
- chemical management system
- energy and water use
- wastewater and waste management
- emissions to air
The GRS certification also addresses the social aspects of production. GRS certified products must comply with labor standards as set by the International Labor Organization (ILO).
The Global Recycled Standard sets social requirements regarding:
- social policies
- forced labor
- child labor
- freedom of association
- discrimination, harassment, and abuse
- health and safety
- wages and benefits
- terms of employment
- working hours
The growth in recycled fiber consumption demands unified processing criteria applicable to the global textile and apparel industry. And the GRS certification has demonstrated its practical feasibility.
The GRS is internationally recognized, widely understood, trusted, and respected by consumers. It verifies the recycled content of products in every step of the value chain through third-party certification.
The Global Recycled Standard certification process
The GRS certification relies on third-party verification to confirm whether a product includes the proper amount of recycled and sustainably produced material.
The Global Recycled Standard often serves as a business-to-business tool and a means for companies to ensure that they are selling and buy certified recycled products.
It verifies recycled content in products along the supply chain and tracks the material from its first processing to the final product. Each organization is checked by an independent third-party.
Entities that wish to become GRS certified are requested to contact an approved certification body (CB) to request services. The CB manages the entire process of certification, from beginning to final labeling and communications.
Here is how the GRS certification process looks like step-by-step:
- Choose a certification body and fill out the application form.
- Apply to more than one certification body to compare price and timing.
- Sign a contract with the certification body of your choice (valid one year).
- Read the standard and prepare relevant documents.
- Meet the auditor after good preparation to reduce certification costs.
- Review documents and procedures against the GRS requirements.
- Wait for the result of the audit and subsequent certification decision.
- Act on a corrective action plan if there are non-conformities (NC).
- Receive a scope certificate (SC) when all requirements are met.
- Prepare for unannounced inspections that verify standard compliance.
- Contact the certification body to apply for a transaction certificate (TC).
Transaction certificates are obligatory for all GRS purchases. They confirm that products conform to the standard requirements and are requested from the supplier at the time of purchase.
Transaction certificates are checked annually during audits. Issuing them involves additional costs. Products cannot be considered certified without their relevant transaction certificates.
Global Recycled Standard approved certification bodies
Each applicant may choose its certification body. And all GRS approved certifiers are entitled to offer related inspection and certification services worldwide.
All companies participating in the GRS certification scheme need to work in compliance with all criteria of the standard.
Some of the GRS approved certification bodies are:
- CCPB (IT)
- Control Union Certifications (NL)
- ECOCERT (FR)
- ETKO (TR)
- GSCI Services Pvt. (IN)
- IDFL Institute and Laboratory (TW)
- Intertek Testing Services NA (CN)
- NSF Certification (US)
- OneCert International Pvt. (IN)
- SCS Global Services (US)
- USB Certification Denetim Gozetim ve Belgelendirme Hizmetleri (TR)
GRS certified sustainable fashion brands
Before buying any clothing made of recycled materials, look for the GRS certification as a great way to ensure that the product contains verified recycled and sustainably produced fibers.
Here are some of the best sustainable fashion brands that offer GRS certified clothing:
- Wolven, an American activewear and swimwear label creating patterns inspired by nature to make sustainability sexy.
- Kuyichi, a Dutch style-conscious brand that inspires younger generations to wear organic jeans.
- Silou, a luxury activewear brand specializing in clothes that feel good, are non-toxic, sustainable, and high-quality.
- TALA, a British activewear brand making cute, empowering, and environmentally friendly workout clothes for women.
- Nudie Jeans, a Swedish denim brand making high-quality jeans sustainably and ethically.
- Emilia George, American maternity and nursing wear brand designing clothes for all stages of motherhood: during and after pregnancy, at work, at home.
- Mandala, a German activewear brand creating sustainable yoga wear made of ecological materials.
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About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.