The Fashion Act is renewed in view of the next legislative session – Sourcing Journal

New York’s groundbreaking bill to hold fashion accountable for its environmental and social impacts is back with some changes in response to industry criticism.

Following the January 7 introduction of the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act and critical feedback from stakeholders, lead sponsors Assembly Member Dr. Anna Kelles, Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, both Democrats and supporters have introduced amendments that clarify and strengthen Assembly Bill A8352, further ensuring that the language will hasten a reduction in the industry’s global footprint.

“The introduction of the Fashion Act in January 2022 has already had a major impact in shaping the conversation and vocabulary in the fashion, media and consumer landscape. Given its importance and recognizing that this is a new space for policy, we are grateful that initiating lawmakers have taken the time to hear feedback on the bill from all stakeholders interested in providing input,” he said Maxine Bedat, director of the New Standard Institute, a think tank on fashion sustainability.”It is imperative that all stakeholders have a say and it is a stronger piece of legislation as a result of this process.”

Since the close of the 2022 legislative session, supporters of the bill and proponents of the idea that regulation is a harbinger of meaningful change have expanded their ranks to include union leadership: Local 1102 RWDSU and Workers United, as well as leadership in the fashion industry including Patagonia, Eileen Fisher, Reformation and many more. The growth of advocates to include stakeholders from all aspects of the industry is meant to send a strong message to lawmakers that the garment industry now needs government oversight.

“The fashion industry is responsible for 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and has been allowed to operate unchecked by regulations,” Kelles said. “This bill is the first of its kind and would require apparel brands to not only map their supply chain but, more critically, hold them accountable for any inhumane labor practices and environmental footprints embedded in their supply chains. It will introduce common-sense protections to ensure transparency and accountability in a global industry that has existed outside the bounds of any global regulation or oversight.”

With the outcome of the November midterm elections, including overwhelming support for Proposition 1, it appears New York state is ready to step up and take a leadership position in addressing the existential issues inherent in consumer fashion products . Before the January 2023 New York State legislative session opens, the Fashion Act may be well positioned to capitalize on this momentum.

“The Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act was a collaborative effort between industry leaders, trade unions, environmental advocates and government leaders. I am proud that our continued collaboration has led to the amendments introduced today, strengthening legislation to raise standards and ensure maximum impact,” said Biaggi. “The Fashion Act is transformative and will allow us to work together to keep the industry of responsible fashion for its environmental and labor impacts.I am incredibly grateful to Assemblyman Kelles, my legislative colleagues and our partners for their tireless dedication and support, and I look forward to the passage of this important legislation in the next session”.

The Fashion Act intends to promote meaningful corporate responsibility. It achieves this by requiring concrete benchmarks to be met and incorporating them into a broader due diligence framework, which allows for further business action as risks and impact evolve. These requirements are accompanied by clear requirements from state regulatory agencies and robust enforcement mechanisms.

Rather than creating duplicate standards that would lead to more reporting and fewer actions, the act references and builds on existing best-in-class initiatives, including the Science Targets, Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) and the Mandatory Framework of due diligence that originated the OECD, which is applied in global legislation. The text of the bill establishes these minimum requirements, which gives regulators room to add to and expand on these standards should they fall short of what the act aims to achieve.

“Although the New York Fashion Act remains a work in progress, it is indisputable that government action is needed to combat the climate crisis and ensure that those who work in our supply chains are protected,” said Patagonia and Eileen Fisher in a joint statement. “Consistent with our respective values ​​and practices, Eileen Fisher and Patagonia support the spirit of the law and the excellent work done to strengthen the law itself in anticipation of its introduction in the next legislative session.”

The due diligence requirements have been clarified to include the provision for fashion sellers to not only perform due diligence but proper due diligence. This means that a company will be held accountable for not only disclosing the due diligence it is performing, but will also be required to perform its due diligence effectively.

The term “due diligence” is somewhat of a misnomer. The phrase, as understood colloquially, refers to the actions an individual or company takes to investigate another company or entity. In the Fashion Act, due diligence is not just about reviewing partners, it is also critically about the role of fashion companies in addressing impacts to their supply chain. The Fashion Act requires companies to effectively perform due diligence, which includes: actions taken to identify, prevent, mitigate, account for and remediate actual and potential adverse human rights and environmental impacts in their operations and chains of supply.

“There has been cognitive dissonance within the fashion industry as globalization has led to lower prices but increasingly distant supply chains,” said Adam Baruchowitz of Wearable Collections, a New York City firm that it has given clothes and footwear destined for landfills a longer life. “This has allowed brands to benefit from global supply chains by claiming they are unaware of the conditions under which their products were produced. The Fashion Act provides guidance for an incredibly inefficient industry and forces them to take responsibility for the whole process.”

It has long been recognized that negative labor outcomes, including low wages and dangerous working conditions endemic to the industry, result not only from bad actors in the supply chain, but also from the drive by fashion brands to cut costs and accelerate turnarounds. To address this issue, the Fashion Act specifically requires companies, in exercising due diligence, to incentivize supplier performance improvement by incorporating responsible purchasing practices, which is further outlined in both the text of the bill and the guidelines of reference. If companies don’t do this effectively, the Attorney General can fine these companies up to 2% of global revenue. Garment workers are further protected by joint liability; for example, they may file a lawsuit directly with the fashion companies for any lost earnings.

“Legislation of the fashion sector is crucial for the change of the global system. The responsibility and accountability for the industry to move to an industry that values ​​people and the planet must include government and business,” said Kerry Bannigan, executive director of the Fashion Impact Fund, which provides grants to female founders who lead the change in fashion “Regulation should stop the destruction of the fashion industry and protect workers along the value chain.”

The Fashion Act requires companies to limit their impact on the climate in line with the Paris Agreement’s call for a 1.5 degree Celsius reduction in carbon emissions. It uses the methodology of the Science Based Target initiative, but takes it a step further by requiring companies to integrate direct data capture to ensure the focus remains on activity within their supply chains.

The Fashion Act also addresses a major area of ​​pollution in the fashion industry: wastewater from textile processing. While several competing pieces of legislation seek to address chemical residues on clothing, none focus on how chemicals are used in the actual supply chain where the risk to biodiversity is greatest. The Fashion Act requires companies to have their textile suppliers implement the best guidelines for treating wastewater, which will go a long way towards cleaning terrestrial, freshwater and coastal ecosystems.

“The supply chains of many of our most popular apparel brands are riddled with massive environmental pollution and labor abuses. The time has come to hold these companies accountable for reducing their environmental and social impacts,” said Democratic state Senator Brad Hoylman. “Sen. Biaggi’s Fashion Act will place the power in the hands of the consumer to better know where their dollar is going and ensure that the brands they buy meet labor and environmental standards and continuously minimize their harmful practices. The Fashion Act is good for our planet, it’s good for work and it’s good for business.”

In consultation with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York Department of Labor, the New York State Department is charged with developing rules and regulations to implement the bill’s provisions. It is also tasked with developing educational materials for fashion sellers and assisting them in ensuring that their actions are sufficient to meet the requirements outlined in the bill.

“In order to create the positive change that we not only want to see, but need to see within the fashion industry, we must have public/private partnerships in place and legislation to guide and incentivize responsible innovation, business models positive for nature and enable thriving communities,” said stylist Stella McCartney. “The Fashion Act is a revolutionary first step today towards this braver and better tomorrow, where the protection of Mother Earth, our fellow humans and humans is woven into the very fabric of every decision.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *