Sri Lanka clothing exporters’ ethical stand leaves buyers cold

Nov 10, 2008 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s apparel exporters complain buyers practice double standards in purchasing and are not ready to pay more despite the manufacturers’ costly commitment to comply with high labour and environmental standards.

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“We’re disappointed there are double standards in purchasing,” said Ajit Dias, chairman of the Joint Apparel Association Forum, an industry umbrella body.

“Some of our buyers source from several countries and average out the price.”

He said not all apparel exporters in developing countries supplying western markets comply with the high standards buyers claim they adhere to, giving them a competitive advantage against companies that do comply.

“We asked why don’t we also flout the laws,” he told a South Asian apparel industry conference.

Dias said that getting buyers to pay even 10 US cents more “is a bit of a problem.”

Sri Lanka’s top apparel exporters have spent millions on upgrading their factories to ‘green’ standards to reduce environmental pollution and on benefits for workers.

The industry is one of the island main sources of employment and foreign