New York State Fashion Substantiality Act Legislation Could Upend Transparency Practices; Industry Reacts To Proposal

In 2010, when then-President Barack Obama signed a new health law requiring restaurant chains of more than 20 restaurants to disclose the calorie intake of their offerings, Americans entered these transactions knowing full well what their meal entailed by a health impact position. (The FDA passed a law to enforce full compliance in 2018). Likewise, the fashion industry could see a similar trend in regards to being responsible for sustainability practices.

On Friday, January 7, 2022, a new law was presented in New York state, initially drafted in October 2021, which, if made into law, would require transparency of at least 50 percent of goods sold from raw materials to shipment regarding their environmental conditions impact. Most notably, Assembly Bill A8352, presented by state Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Congresswoman Anna R. Kelles with the support of influential fashion and sustainability nonprofits, including the New Standard Institute, Natural Resources Defense Council and the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, requires a supply chain mapping and reporting on impact and due diligence. The finer points of the fashion sustainability and social responsibility bill can be viewed here. As of this mailing, the bill has passed the Senate and the State Assembly and is awaiting delivery to New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who made a rare appearance as governor at NYFW last September, to sign. or veto.

CFDA AND AAFA ANSWERS

The news may have come as a surprise to many in the industry. Several organizations such as the CFDA led by Tom Ford and Steven Kolb and the AAFA were not involved in drafting the account. They issued the following joint statement.

“The apparel and footwear industry has a strong commitment to sustainability and social responsibility within its supply chains. The work of Sustainable Apparel Coalition, UN Global Compact, Apparel Impact Institute, Global Fashion Agenda, Better Buying Initiative, AAFA’s Commitment to Responsible Recruitment and CFDA’s Sustainability, including the CFDA Sustainability Resource Hub and “Sustainability by Design: Rethinking New York The study of Fashion Week with Boston Consulting Group has transformed the industry supply chains from what they were decades ago.

That said, more needs to be done, which is why AAFA and CFDA are aligned in achieving the 2030 and 2050 climate goals of the Paris Agreement and why we support the UN Fashion Industry Charter for Action to the climate.

As industry organizations, we have not been involved in drafting the bill, nor are we aware of any companies that have been consulted. We are currently taking some time to understand the bill and look forward to speaking with its authors to provide our input and share our perspectives. “

HOW THE GREAT PLAYERS SCORE

Although the news may have sent a collective panic across the industry, which boasts its fair share of small businesses, right now the bill is similar to calorie intake charts in that it only applies to companies with at least $ 100 million. in sales per year include luxury giants LVMH, Kering; American mass producers such as PVH, the fast fashion giants H&M

PVH
and the parent company of Zara Inditex and the sports giants Nike

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and Puma.

According to the BoF Sustainability Index report of March 22, 2021, companies are classified into six categories considered to be the most significant transgressions in the sector: transparency, emissions, water and chemicals, materials, workers’ rights and waste. All the companies mentioned above, with the exception of LVMH, score well above 40 on their overall rating. Therefore, compliance with a new ruling in New York state, one of the strongest US markets, should plausibly be seamless.

SWEDISH MODEL

According to Catarina Midby, Head of Stockholm Fashion Week, H&M, which by face value appears to be one of the biggest fashion criminals due to the volume of low-cost disposable clothing it produces, is among Sweden’s sustainability leaders. “The largest Swedish brand H&M tops the Fashion Revolution transparency index, which indicates the level of engagement as it leads and invests in many sustainability initiatives for the fashion industry nationally and globally,” he explains adding ” Sustainability is a goal for the Swedish fashion industry and Stockholm Fashion Week. The upcoming Stockholm Fashion Week will explore the new (more sustainable) normal and the impact of extreme digital development caused by the pandemic, including how to improve processes and consumption models within this space. In addition, we will present brands that work with alternative circular business models. “

Midby strongly supports laws to enforce these practices, citing the steps taken by Swedish brands. “Transparency is the key to sustainable change for our industry, but it shouldn’t be voluntary as it is now, which is why I strongly support the New York Fashion Act. Here in Sweden, designers and brands have increasingly prioritized investments in climate and social impact reporting across their value chain and actions to improve and reduce it. This means brands need to have a committed sustainability agenda and they also need to work together. Many local brands are members of STICA (The Swedish Textile Initiative for Climate Action). In addition, they are also active in international organizations such as The Sustainable Apparel Coalition, The Fashion Pact and Global Fashion Agenda. For example, sustainable Swedish menswear brand ASKET shares the path the garment has taken from ideation to purchase, almost ad nauseam, according to founder August Bard Bringéus.

TRANSPARENCY AT ANY DIMENSION

Closer to us, even if it will not initially affect them, the industry reflects on the proposed legislation. For jewelry brand Deepa Gurnani, founded by husband-and-wife duo Jay Lakhani and Deepa Gurnani, producing products in India, it’s a sustainable challenge that this small business would gladly accept if the legislation extended to smaller brands.

“I am 100% for this new act that the state of New York is trying to implement. Our industry is moving at such a rapid pace that no one can keep up. This act would help all of us to take a step back and think about correctly implementing this change in our supply chain. It will be difficult at first for any company. However, in the long run, this is where we should be heading to preserve our planet and future generations to come, “said Lakhani, who is also a member of the Accessories Council. President Karen Giberson, chief editor of the Accessories Council magazine, agrees but cautiously. “The spirit of the state’s efforts is well-intentioned, but I worry about the speed with which they want to apply it and the difficulty in tracing transparency.”

AERA, a line of vegan and sustainable shoes, is a naturally and voluntarily sustainable small business that could bring in others looking to do the same. “AERA has become more sensitive to sustainability. Mandates like the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act are finally being introduced to steer our industry in the right direction, ”says co-founder Tina Bhojwani.

“Our initial approach was to conduct a life cycle assessment with the support of SCS Global Services (a third-party certification agency specializing in scientific measurement and transparency) and partner with organizations that offered certifications. We have received The Butterfly Mark from Positive Luxury and, more recently, B Corp certification to validate our work. ”

Bhojwani, also co-founder of Figure Eight and a pop-up of sustainable luxury goods in Soho, believes government intervention is the only way to go and that companies of all sizes should join. “The only way to achieve meaningful change is for the government to create laws and standards under which businesses should operate. The fashion industry is unregulated and I am proud that New York City is taking the lead in a is such a critical initiative, especially as it is a fashion capital of the world. Furthermore, thanks to the science, technology and innovative nature of the sector, there are ample opportunities to operate within a system of ethics, responsibility and transparency at any scale “.

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