Welcome to the annual report for the Life and Building Safety Initiative, where we reflect on the progress we have made towards our program goals, exploring the successes and challenges, and sharing our learnings in the process. Our goal is twofold: to provide an introduction to our approach and methodology, followed by program achievements and our learnings to date.
Since launching, LABS has reached over 843,232 workers in India, Vietnam, and Cambodia to provide safer working conditions and collaborated with factories to remediate pressing safety issues. As of December 2022, approximately 77% of the issues identified across 406 factories in both countries were remediated because of LBS's intervention.
This report showcases our efforts in achieving these outcomes, and how we are making a difference towards promoting safer working conditions for workers in the textile industry.
We invite you to read the report and explore how the Life and Building Safety Initiative is making a positive impact in the industry.
What are our stakeholders saying
I’m extremely happy to be associated with LABS. The Apparel & Footwear industries employ thousands of men and women in manufacturing and other processes. Their health and safety are paramount, and LABS is doing a very commendable job of instilling a culture of safety within the industry. LABS initiatives will also help the industry in India find new and better global markets.
Lalit R. Gabhane
Director General, National Safety Council of India
LABS’ work to create safer working conditions for people in the apparel supply chain is invaluable. Retailers, suppliers, factory owners, industry associations, and government all play a role to keep workers safe and the industry thriving, and LABS is helping bring all of these players together for a common goal.
Senior Director, Strategic Initiatives
As a LABS founding member, VF has witnessed the huge impact LABS has made in the Apparel & Footwear industry, improving safety conditions for thousands of workers, while also promoting gender equality. VF is proud to be part of this transformative program and we eagerly anticipate its continued expansion, for example into Indonesia in 2023.
Senior Director Safe And Sustainable Operations
I’m delighted to be a part of the LABS Cambodia NSC. LABS is a great initiative, and quite similar to what we do at the Department of Occupational Safety & Health in terms of factory audits and safety training. LABS utilizes international best practice in their Standards, which make their assessments technically excellent. Ensuring safety in the factory, protecting buyers’ reputations and helping make Cambodia an attractive sourcing country.
LABS has enabled us to evaluate current safety levels, recognize danger signs,and plan timely remedial measures that limit the risk of costly accidents and dangers to employees and property. We now know more about structural, electrical and fire safety. So we can perfect our safety-management system, better manage and control risks,and investigate and find the root causes of incidents. The safety training also raises employees’ awareness of the risks of unsafe situations. Our factory is now a step nearer its goal of creating the safest possible work environment for our workers.
Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy
LABS is a very important program. Harmonization of standards within the Apparel sector at a national level is vital, and LABS will be invaluable in helping our efforts to increase accountability in safety-related inspections.
Director General, Dept of Construction
The year that was
• In 2022, LABS conducted various activities as towards Quality Assurance to ensure robustness in operations, and consistency in assessment and reporting.
• In December, Daan Wensing (CEO, IDH) and Felia Palsenberg (Global Operations Director, IDH) visited one of the associated factories , Pearl Global Pvt Ltd located in Gurugram, Haryana, accompanied by Jagjeet Singh Kandal (Country Director, IDH), Jasmer Dhingra (Program Director, IDH), Sarobindo Malhotra (Global Program Lead, LABS) and other members of the LABS Team and brand participant GAP Inc.
• On May 18th, 2022. LABS Program was publicly launched in Cambodia. Overall, 207 people participated in the launch event.
Improved field-level impact
Assessments: Assessments are conducted at factories based on the LABS Standards. They provide insight into the safety issues in a factory. By the end of 2022, 394 assessments had been conducted since the program’s launch. In 2022, a total of 147 assessments were conducted at factories across India, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Remediations: Based on the issues identified during a factory’s assessment, the factory then works on a corrective action plan to remediate the issues in line with LABS Standards. Since early 2022, LABS has steadily increased its overall remediation rate, reaching 77% at the end of 2022.
Safety Training: Through the associated safety training firms, LABS enhances the ability of OHS committees, staff members and factory safety personnel to flag up and raise awareness of structural, electrical and fire safety issues. In 2022, LABS conducted a total of 326 Safety Trainings in which 7,219 people were trained on safety practices.
LABS Helpline: As part of the LABS program, a toll-free workers helpline is provided for factories linked with the program in India, Vietnam and Cambodia. Workers can anonymously report safety issues, primarily related to structural, fire and electrical safety. A total of 91 calls were reported on the Helpline in 2022.
Improved sector governance
• Leveraging National Stakeholders Committees (NSC) to create sector-level change
The NSC guides the monitoring and institutionalizing of the program at country level. Ensuring key government support for NSCs is vital. In 2022, 5 NSC meetings (2 India; 2 Vietnam; 1 Cambodia) were held to help strengthen policy/regulations and ensure joint industry commitments to safety with longterm local/national ownership.
• Working with brand participants to strengthen the program
In 2022, LABS continued to work closely with the brand participants to accelerate the remediation and implementation of safety management systems in sourcing factories. The result was a major increase in remediation rates on high-priority issues and the timely execution of LABS processes at factories, and another 44 factories successfully adopting LABS Standards into their operational processes and thereby graduating from the LABS program. In 2022, two of the brand participants – Gap Inc and VF Corp. – made the LABS program a mandatory sourcing requirement.
• Working with associated firms to achieve operational excellence
LABS associated firms are the inspection, quality assurance & safety training firms that deliver LABS mandated processes across our operational countries. In 2022, 5 more firms (2 inspection, 1 quality assurance and 2 safety training, and including 10 engineers & 5 trainers) were trained and added to the program to further strengthen operations.
Changing business practices
• Factory Graduations: In total, 51 factories (India 7; Vietnam 44) have successfully graduated from the program, of which 41 (India 7; Vietnam 37) in 2022.
• Expansion into Home Textile factories: In October 2022, we began work on extending the LABS program to cover Home Textile factories and identified India. The updated Standards are currently being reviewed. Home Textiles include, for example, bedsheets, pillows, towels, bath and kitchen linen, blankets and carpets.
Promoting gender empowerment
• Over 4,700 women have been trained on safety parameters through LABS Safety Trainings since program inception.
• Gender Workshop: Platform for Gender Equality in Apparel & Footwear in Cambodia: On 2 November 2022, LABS ran its first Gender Workshop in Cambodia.
• Several multi-stakeholder consultation and knowledge-sharing events were conducted with LABS stakeholders to assess the existing safety issues in factories and possible solutions.
• During 2022, the LABS secretariat held several key meetings with Better Factories Cambodia and Better Works Vietnam for improved collaboration.