The ‘Garments without Guilt’ initiative from the Sri Lankan apparel sector has certainly improved the credibility of Sri Lankan clothing in the global marketplace.
The Sri Lankan apparel export industry caught onto the concept of running a responsible business, at a time, when the world had just started talking about it. The sector initiated ‘Garments without Guilt’ campaign, of which adopting fair environmental practices is a key initiative.
To be able to carry the ‘Garments without Guilt’ label on their garments, the apparel makers have to undergo a rigid certification process, which includes that the garment is ‘free of child & forced labor’ and ‘free of discrimination & sweatshop practices’. More importantly, it also has to be following responsible environmental practices.
“Sri Lanka has been aggressive due to two reasons. Firstly, our awareness of environmental challenges is high, and second, we believe it creates a critical value addition in the long run. When environmental concerns become part of operating standards in a factory, a less resource consuming factory will become more important,” Mr Dian Gomes, Group Director, MAS Holdings told fibre2fashion.
MAS Holdings, amongst the biggest Sri Lankan garment exporters, latched on to the concept earlier than others. Aggressive action came mainly on the initiative from M&S which was looking for partners for its sustainability platform - Plan A, which led to MAS Holdings setting up its first ‘Green Factory’ - MAS Intimates Thurulie.
When quizzed if it has proved to be a first mover advantage, he said, “We believe so. I think what is remarkable is all of the Sri Lankan apparel facilities are addressing the environmental impact as a serious issue. It has moved beyond something that a few companies do only for discerning customers. Our industry is greening itself irrespective of customer demand.”
Mr Gomes thinks that the initiative has certainly improved the credibility of Sri Lankan apparels in the marketplace. However, the concept, he says has not translated into as much as hoped sales.
Among the various environmentally sustainable initiatives undertaken, MAS is managing a large organic cotton initiative in Burkina Faso and collaborated with M&S to launch the world’s first carbon neutral lingerie range in 2011. Beginning from Thurulie, MAS is also opting to design and build all new facilities incorporating ‘green’ elements.