January 2022 has seen the fashion world sit up and take notice. A new bill has been put forward to address unsustainable practices within the industry. If the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act is passed, New York will become the first state in the U.S. to account for fashion-related climate change.
The bill, sponsored by senator Alessandra Biaggi and assemblywoman Anna R. Kelles has won support from numerous non-profits. Fashion’s own Stella McCartney has pledged her allegiance alongside, despite being liable to be sanctioned by it. If the law passes, clothing and footwear companies generating in excess of $100 million per year will be targeted. Companies will need to be actively operating within New York.
Hitting the industry hard
$100 million in revenue might sound like a high mantle. In reality, it applies to almost every global brand. The list will include fast fashion giants including Shein, all the way up to premium fashion houses such as Prada. Those constrained by the new law will be subject to stringent transparency requirements, starting with supply chains.
Companies will need to lay bare a minimum of 50 percent of their entire supply chain network, starting with raw material sourcing. Assessing their entire operations, fashion brands will be asked to acknowledge their most unsustainable practices. Commitments to improve these areas will be required. Carbon emissions reductions will need to be made in line with the Paris Climate Accord targets.
To aid consumer awareness and understanding, figures surrounding material usage will be made public. Brands will need to break down their annual consumption of different materials, including all virgin fibres and animal products.
“As a global fashion and business capital of the world, New York State has a moral responsibility to serve as a leader in mitigating the environmental and social impact of the fashion industry.” Senator Biaggi said in a press statement. She went on to describe the legislation as having the potential to make New York a leader in fashion accountability.
Fix up, look sharp
If passed, the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act will give companies just 12 months to surrender effective supply chain mapping. 18 months will be given for assessing and relaying areas of significant impact.
Any companies found to be operating outside of the law will be fined up to two percent of their annual revenue. Monies collected from violations will be allocated to a community fund and used to support environmental justice initiatives. The Department of Environmental Conservation will oversee this. A ‘name and shame’ approach will also be taken, with the attorney general publishing a list of offenders each year.
The bill is currently being pushed through relevant committees ahead of a vote in late spring.
Setting the example
If New York is successful in making the new legislation a defining standard for all fashion companies, it could spark a global trend. Human rights and labour laws are already in place elsewhere but social and environmental consequences remain largely unaddressed. This makes fashion one of the least regulated yet most impactful industries in the world.
Fashion is changing and not just with the seasons. Last December, Italy announced a blanket ban on fur farming. The remaining 10 locations engaged in the practice were given six months to tie up their interests. Financial support will be allocated to the companies needing to enter new markets. Breeding fur-bearing animals was outlawed alongside the groundbreaking development.
Fast-fashion giant Zara revealed last year that it had launched a capsule collection of dresses made from carbon emissions. It comes as the chain seeks to use more sustainable materials in its ranges.
All images courtesy of Unsplash.