When the Asian region was emerging as a leading global fashion and apparel outsourcing hub in the last decade, Sri Lanka gained a reputation as the only outsourcing destination which practised ethical business and manufacturing practices. In other words, the country strictly adhered to the philosophy of “garments without guilt”.

Sri Lanka’s apparel sector has witnessed a surge in demand in recent times and the Sri Lankan Apparel Exporters Forum forecast that exports would reach 5 billion dollars by 2015, from the 3.4 billion dollars in 2010. One main reason attributed to this positive development is the country’s strict adherence to the “garments without guilt” ethos, industry sources pointed out.

Due to poor working conditions and unethical practices by certain countries, such as the employment of children, the garment industry as a whole has earned a negative perception internationally. Therefore, the modern trend is for buyers and customers, especially from the West, being concerned about not only the quality of the garment, but how the garments they purchase are manufactured as well.

This awareness led to the development of the philosophy garments without guilt. Sri Lanka Apparel, the monitoring body of the garment industry, ensures that while Sri Lanka supplies quality garments at competitive prices, the country also upholds ethical practices in the process of manufacture.

Sri Lanka as a country has ratified the 27 Core Conventions of the United Nations and the International Labour Organization, which include: Prohibition of Forced Labour; Prohibition of Child Labour; Prohibition of Discrimination on any grounds and the Protection of the Environment. In addition, the country has strict labour laws that demand safe and healthy working conditions, governed hours of work, social security fund contributions, environmental protection standards and many other laws.

Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka Design Festival (SLDF), a national event aimed at promoting Sri Lanka as a green destination and a regional creative hub, is scheduled to take place from 15th – 20th November, 2011 in Colombo. The annual festival is supported by the Ministry of Economic Development, The Joint Apparel Association Forum, the design sector and leading businesses.

During last year’s festival, SLDF hosted an Ethical Fashion Symposium, which was chaired by one of the world’s leading fashion writers, Colin McDowell. The Symposium was attended by members of the local ethical fashion manufacturing movement and internationally renowned opinion leaders and ethical fashion experts. The theme of the Symposium was Sri Lankan Referendum on Ethical Fashion. In fact, most of the Western buyers specifically attended this event because of the country’s green garment plants. SLDF 2010 also featured guided tours to leading Sri Lankan apparel businesses and “Green Plants”, giving visitors an insight into the progressive Sri Lankan fashion manufacturing industry.

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