Clothing firms at an industry event in Sri Lanka this week are looking for ways to ramp up their sustainability.

Responsible cotton sourcing, consumer attitudes towards sustainability and anti-sweatshop labels all entered the agenda of the annual Ethical Fashion Symposium in Colombo.

Brands including Topshop, Marks &  Spencer and Tesco attended the conference, which is part of the Sri Lanka Design Festival (SLDF) 2010.

Patrick Laine, director of corporate partnerships at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), called on clothing companies to track their supply chains right down to cotton through the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI).

"Every company has a sustainability plan but is that plan doing enough?" Laine asked. "We haven't yet managed to decouple business growth from environmental damage."

Meanwhile, there were calls from a domestic fashion body to make factory conditions more transparent.

"We all know what we are supposed to do, let's make a plan and get on with it," said Kumar Mirchandani, chairman of the Sri Lanka Apparel Exporters Association. "I fundamentally believe we need labels to prove garments were not made in sweatshops."

Local manufacturers are looking to drum up trade during SLDF, as the country continues to invest in greener factories that are socially compliant. At present, 135 of Sri Lanka's 200 factories are certified under the country's Garments Without Guilt campaign.

Speaking at the event, Abi Rushton, ethical and sustainable sourcing manager for clothing at Tesco Stores, said: "We've heard lots about the challenges facing the industry, but I have a different view on that.

"My colleagues at Tesco are always amazed at the amount of collaboration that goes on in the clothing industry."

Rushton added that the clothing industry's experience tackling social compliance could prove vital when it comes to improving sustainability.