India’s Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) has launched a new code of conduct for the country’s garment industry, in partnership with its Textiles Ministry.

The initiative, known as DISHA – Driving Industry Towards Sustainable Human Capital Advancement – is designed to promote improved social and environmental practices among AEPC members.

It is also designed to meet the concerns of key export destinations, such as the US and the countries of the European Union, who have sometimes criticised Indian companies for their record on child labour, health and safety, and environmental practices.

Textiles Minister Rita Menon said the garment industry should view increasing compliance requirements as an opportunity, rather than a challenge, arguing that improving standards would make India’s apparel sector more competitive on the global stage.

The programme will involve a team of experts analysing practices and offering guidance to businesses, and will be open to audit by international agencies.

The five-year initiative includes a Textiles Ministry budget of INR60m (US$1.1m) for the 2001-12 period.