New ‘industry-driven’ building safety initiative launched in India & Vietnam to promote garment worker safety meets criticism for ignoring ‘vital lessons from the past'

In August 2019, the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) launched the Life and Building Safety Initiative (LABS) programme in Vietnam and India, which aims to promote safe working conditions in apparel and footwear industries. It is now set to expand to Pakistan and Cambodia in 2020. The initiative is an 'industry-driven' programme, involving multiple brands, including Gap, Bestseller, Li & Fung, PVH, Target, VF Corporation, and Walmart.

While LABS has promised to draw on experiences from the Bangladesh Accord, it has been highlighted by various actors including trade unions and NGOs that some of its policies and practices contradict the Accord. For example, the initiative is a voluntary, non-binding agreement with little transparency. Moreover, it is argued that implementation and decision-making power is largely in the hands of brands, as brands can choose to stop supplying from factories where safety issues have been found.

Ineke Zeldenrust of Clean Clothes Campaign has referred to it as a "disaster waiting to happen". 

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Article
30 August 2019

Clean Clothes Campaign refute claims new safety initiative draws from the Accord and is instead a "disaster waiting to happen"

Author: Clean Clothes Campaign

"New safety initiative launched in India today ignores vital lessons from the past", 27 August 2019

“Sustainable Trade Initiative” IDH, launched its “industry-driven” safety programme in Vietnam earlier...and launches its India programme today...LABS announced it is planning expansion into Pakistan and Cambodia...

...“It is telling that four of the brands now behind the LABS initiative were main movers behind the Alliance as a business-controlled alternative to the Accord,” said Liana Foxvog of the International Labor Rights Forum. “...why would the initiative pushed by them now be trusted to draw on the lessons of the Accord...?”...

LABS promises to “build on the learnings and experiences” from Bangladesh...However, LABS is a voluntary brand initiative without union participation that lacks binding mechanisms to hold...brands accountable. Even though LABS claims to have transparency as one of its core principles, vital resources that LABS promises to make public...are...in the members-only part of its website...

...Even if factories consistently fail to remediate...safety issues...the programme leaves it to member brands’ individual decisions whether they...continue to source from these suppliers. Instead of employing...its own engineers...LABS places its trust in the same corporate social auditing firms that failed to prevent large-scale casualties in the past...

...“LABS’ programme of inspecting factories is a disaster waiting to happen..." says Ineke Zeldenrust of Clean Clothes Campaign...

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Article
30 August 2019

Vietnam: New health and safety initiative for apparel industry launched

Author: Fibre2Fashion

"Safety initiative for apparel-footwear units in Vietnam", 13 August 2019

The Sustainable Trade Initiative Vietnam (IDH) and the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS) recently launched the ‘Life and Building Safety Initiative’ (LABS) in Hanoi to boost safer working conditions for apparel-footwear factory workers. The initiative will assist factories to meet domestic and international requirements on fire, electrical and structural safety.

IDH, in coordination with a number of large brands and retailers, such as Bestseller, Gap, Li & Fung, PVH, Target, VF Corporation and Walmart, built a set of standards applied by these brands to assist Vietnamese enterprises to fulfil requirements from international brands and distributors, according to a Vietnamese media report...

...LABS is an industry-driven programme, in which multiple brands and retailers are joining forces with public and civil society organisations to operate a scalable programme to eliminate preventable fire, electrical and structural safety risks in key apparel and footwear producing countries in a targeted way. 

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