In the United States, the fashion industry has long managed to escape environmental and social regulations, despite contributing up to 10% to global greenhouse gas emissions and relying on notoriously exploitative work. A piece of New York State legislation, the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act (or Fashion Act), introduced by State Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Congresswoman Anna Kelles, aims to transform this status quo. The Senate bill was first presented in October 2021 and its counterpart in the Assembly was proposed on Friday 7 January.
If passed, the Fashion Act would make New York the first state in the nation to disclose the social and environmental impacts of its manufacturing processes, according to the New York Times. Specifically, any apparel or footwear companies that earn more than $ 100 million annually should plan and implement “science-based goals,” which outline pathways to reduce emissions to help meet the Paris Agreement goals. They should report their energy use and emissions and provide information on how they handle water, plastics and chemicals. Additionally, routine due diligence on labor standards would be required.
If a company fails to comply with these regulations, it would be subject to penalties of up to 2% of its annual revenue. These fines would be grouped into a community fund authorized by this legislation and overseen by the Department of Environmental Conservation. That fund would go to support environmental justice projects.
Specifically, the bill requires companies to disclose at least half of their supply chains, detailing where they get their materials from, how they are made into textiles, and what their shipping processes are like. They are also required to identify the nodes in their chains where the social and environmental impact of production is greatest.
Biaggi and Kelles aim to get a vote on the bill by late spring, according to Times. A report compiled by the Global Fashion Agenda, the Boston Consulting Group, and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition in 2019 found that 40% of the industry did not go beyond formal commitment to sustainability, meaning these companies had neither committed. they part material resources for sustainability initiatives nor did they possess any traceability mechanisms to keep track of their supply chains. The same report also found that progress regarding sustainability in the fashion industry was slowing.
Biaggi, Kelles, and a cast of supporters who passed the bill, including fashion sustainability nonprofits like the New Standard Institute, environmental advocacy groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance and designer Stella McCartney, are optimistic that New York State’s importance to the industry will force it to take action on climate change and pressure non-New York-based companies to be more accountable and transparent about their chain stores. supplying.
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