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Apparel brands join LABS initiative in India & Vietnam

Aug '19
L-R: Pramit Chanda, Global Director, IDH; Kyle Bogler, VF Corp.; Maria Lassen, Bestseller Sustainability; Mallory McConnell, PVH; Kapil Mathur, GAP; Sarobindo Malhotra, Country Manager (India)-LABS
L-R: Pramit Chanda, Global Director, IDH; Kyle Bogler, VF Corp.; Maria Lassen, Bestseller Sustainability; Mallory McConnell, PVH; Kapil Mathur, GAP; Sarobindo Malhotra, Country Manager (India)-LABS
Major brands including Bestseller, Gap Inc., PVH, Target, VF Corp., and Walmart have joined the Life And Building Safety (LABS) initiative for the apparel and footwear sectors, launched by IDH—the sustainable trade initiative. The LABS initiative is designed to protect workers from structural, fire, and electrical safety risks in factories.
The programme, launched in India on August 28 and in Vietnam on August 6, 2019, will operate in all major industrial hubs, covering small, medium, and large enterprises in these countries. Together, in 2019, these brands cover hundreds of factories and around 163,400 workers in Vietnam, and 125,000 workers in India.
"With a pressing need to protect workers from structural, fire and electrical safety risks, several leading apparel brands approached IDH to leverage learnings from Bangladesh and replicate them in other key apparel sourcing countries. This led to the development of the LABS Initiative. The LABS participants include a group of European, Asian and US-based businesses, facilitated by the LABS Secretariat, which engages with local stakeholders such as industry associations, CSOs, governments, and institutes to create better safety policies and provisions," IDH said in a press release.
The LABS standard and methodology are based on international best practices and codes, such as the International Building Code, National Building Code of India among others. Under LABS, in addition to applicable country laws, factories commit to adhering to a harmonised, country level standard around structural, fire, and electrical safety.
IDH will support the overall facilitation of LABS and development of operational set up in the two countries.
“Aimed at improving worker safety in the apparel and footwear industries, LABS effectively identifies and mitigates the potential risks related to fire, electrical, and structural building safety and evacuation. LABS is a coherent and consistent worker-safety programme to assess factories and provide a framework for monitoring, mitigation and remediation,” said Pramit Chanda, Global Director for Sustainable Manufacturing – IDH and LABS Spokesperson said. 
“Due to tragic incidents in the apparel industry, the industry has got a lot of attention in the recent years at a global level. …The government of India is ready to adopt innovative, cost effective models. If there is a requirement to improve, we will adapt at the national level. We look forward to receiving recommendations and taking learnings from the LABS initiative for improving the national standards on safety in the sector,” said DK Shami, fire advisor, Director General Fire Services, Civil Defence and Home Guards, Indian ministry of home affairs.
Speaking about joining the initiative, Kyle Bogler, worker rights and safety director – VF Corp. said, “Every decision we make at VF Corp. revolves around our purpose statement – ‘We power movements of sustainable and active lifestyles for the betterment of people and our planet’ – A key word in that is people. When you put people first, you can understand why VF is a founding member of the LABS initiative. LABS has developed a set of harmonised standards, which are locally relevant, that focus on the top three preventable safety risks people face in a factory. Through multi-stakeholder collaboration, we have everyone moving in the same direction, with the ultimate goal of driving change and saving lives. Another key facet of the LABS Initiative is the bottom up approach to training and the worker helpline. This gives a sometimes-underrepresented group of people the chance to understand their role in preventing deadly accidents.”
As an industry-driven programme, LABS is aimed at setting a benchmark safety standard against which apparel, and footwear factories are assessed. The LABS assessment is not a code-compliance check; however, it defines a required level of safety based on international best practices, considering the local context. All technical standards consist of an interrelated set of measures which, taken together, are assumed to provide an acceptable level of safety in a building. (RKS)

Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India

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