Source: Daily Mirror

Bill Clinton authors a book on 'Giving', while Bill Gates steps down as Chairman of Microsoft to take on full time philanthropy! Toyota turns to producing cleaner, greener vehicles, while British Petroleum champions 'sustainability'.


Is it a new business trend, or has the era of responsible commerce finally arrived?


The numbers from worldwide ethical consumption confirms the beginning of an era of Ethical Economies where businesses, governments and consumers are working closely to conduct commerce based on conscience and care-where economies and businesses are driven by three key growth engines of Ethical, Ecological and Sustainability.


In UK alone last year over 10% of household spending went towards ethically certified products and services. The ethical consumption industry in UK stands at about 32.3 billion pounds a year. Today an average household spends about 664 pounds on ethical products which has doubled in last five years - an emerging trend that corporations and businesses are witnessing across the US, Europe, Latin America and Asia.


No wonder then concepts like Fair Trade practices, Green Products, Sustainable Resources and Ethical Manufacturing are becoming pivotal points of all corporate boardroom strategic meetings. As rising ethical consumerism waves are set in motion through the World Wide Web and social networks, businesses are being guided to conduct responsible commerce.


But are businesses really ready for this change?


The world over, all progressive corporations have realized that being perceived as an ethical business is not about Green-wash marketing campaigns and lip service. The consumers and media want to see promises in action wherein corporations demonstrate internalization of ethical philosophy and practices across all business processes.


A major reason why global ethical frontrunners like Marks & Spencer, Gap, Intel, and Nike, among others, share Corporate Sustainability reports on various organizational efforts is to ensure ethics in action. The spectrum covers mission critical initiatives like ethical sourcing, ethical health of partners and vendors, minimization of carbon footprints, reports on ethical working conditions and human rights, among other things.


In fact, this transparency has brought about a paradigm shift in the way businesses are run. It has given birth to collaborative commerce wherein both consumers and media help organizations stay on the path of conducting businesses ethically and more responsibly.

Where is Sri Lanka on this Global Ethical Map?


With South Asian countries emerging as a prominent global hub for outsourcing essential commodities like apparel, tea, spices, and now IT Enabled Services among other things in the last decade, the pressures to ship ethically compliant products and services to the EU and US region have increased dramatically.


For all regional economies competing for the same set of buyers on scale and cost, the dynamics have suddenly changed. As every country, industry and supplier from the region has now realized that ethical compliance is a business, and is a competency that cannot be purchased or built overnight.

This changing dynamic has brought all countries: China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, among others, to leveled playing field. For Sri Lanka, fortunately ethical compliance has been a way of life, thanks to stringent labour laws and cultural DNA. This historic emphasis on ethical business practices puts the country to the forefront of this emerging new world order based on responsible commerce.

Sri Lankan Apparel Industry is a shining example of the countrys commitment to responsible commerce and today commands the necessary ethical compliance reputation among the global outsourcing community while their regional counterparts in China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh continue to grapple with these internal issues.

Sri Lanka's readiness for Ethical Commerce

The Apparel Industry of Sri Lanka is a perfect example of a young industry [only 30 years of existence] that has preached and practiced something that the west is taking cognizance of only now.

The garment industry with its 370-odd big and small manufacturing members have been practicing an unspoken code of conduct on ethical business and manufacturing practices since their inception. A way of doing business that has now been formalized as a single slogan 'Garments without Guilt'.

Garments without Guilt encapsulates the one million-strong Sri Lankan workforces mission and pledge to create world-class apparel products under Globally set ethical business standards. The world-renowned certification agency, SGS, has certified over 100 manufacturing plants in the past year-a rare achievement for any industry-attaining triple digit certification in one go.

This Garments without Guilt resolve has found global support and admiration from some of the prominent international figures like the Hon' US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Mr. Robert Blake, and the editor of the worlds biggest online fashion magazine, Ms. Leonie Barie. Western media has applauded these efforts by showcasing the industry at various global platforms-from the BBC World Business Report to online ethical fashion blogs such as

The Garments without Guilt movement has been further strengthened by the continuous support and guidance shown by its global business partners such as Marks & Spencer and Gap, among others. The recently launched $1 billion Green Factory project by country's top three apparel manufacturers: Brandix, MAS and Hirdramani is a testimonial of the garment industrys commitment towards partnering their global partner M&S in building a cleaner and greener tomorrow under M&S Plan A CSR program.

Additionally, Gap has partnered with MAS in promoting its Go Beyond programs. This continuous mentorship from global buying houses has helped Sri Lankan manufacturers to step up the momentum for ethical apparel production, slowly and steadily positioning the country as Asias ethical apparel sourcing hub for global brands and labels.

Whilst the Garments without Guilt program builds global recognition for the Sri Lankan Apparel , the industry recently launched the Abhimani program, aimed at building a sense of pride and ownership towards what we do best-and do ethically-among the 1 million direct and indirect workforce members, out of which 80% are women. The program aims to touch garment workers at the grass roots and individual level.

But like all pioneering initiatives this commitment to ethical commerce comes with a cost, a cost to continuously invest in enhancing people skills, processes, machinery and better environmental safety standards. An investment that members of Sri Lanka Apparel and their international buyers are willingly absorbing to gift the world Guilt-free clothing.

No wonder then, in times to come Sri Lanka will emerge as the preferred destination for ethical apparel sourcing in Asia Pacific region. A realization that is inspiring other regional players like Apparel Singapore to follow the league.