Fashion industry reacts to New York sustainability legislation that could upend transparency practices


In 2010, when then-President Barack Obama signed a new health care law requiring restaurant chains with more than 20 restaurants to disclose the calorie intake of their offerings, Americans entered into these deals knowing perfectly what their meal entailed in terms of health impact. (The FDA passed a law to enforce full compliance in 2018). On a related note, the fashion industry can see a similar trend when it comes to the accountability of sustainability practices.

On Friday, January 7, 2022, a new law in New York State was introduced, originally drafted in October 2021, which, if passed, would require at least 50% transparency of goods sold, from raw materials to shipment with regard to their environment. impact. Specifically, Assembly Bill A8352, introduced by State Senator Alessandra Biaggi and MP Anna R. Kelles with the support of influential fashion and development nonprofits sustainability, including the New Standard Institute, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, requires a supply chain. impact mapping and disclosure and due diligence. Details of the Fashion Sustainability and Social Responsibility Bill can be viewed here. At the time of this publication, the bill has passed the Senate and State Assembly and is awaiting delivery to New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who has made a rare appearance as governor in the NYFW last September, to sign or veto.

CFDA and AAFA respond

The news may have surprised many in the industry. Various organizations such as the CFDA led by Tom Ford and Steven Kolb and the AAFA were not involved in the drafting of the bill. They issued the following joint statement.

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

That said, there is still a long way to go, and that’s why AAFA and CFDA are aligned to meet the Paris Agreement’s 2030 and 2050 climate goals and why we support the United Nations Charter for Industry. fashion for climate action.

As industry organizations, we were not involved in drafting the bill and we are not aware of any companies that were consulted. We are currently taking the time to understand the bill and look forward to speaking with its authors to provide them with our input and share our views. “

How great players score

While the news may have caused a collective panic in the industry, which has its fair share of small businesses, at present the bill is similar to calorie intake tables in that it only applies to companies with at least $ 100 million in sales per year. include luxury giants LVMH, Kering; American mass producers like PVH, fast fashion giants H&M

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

and Puma.

According to the BoF Sustainability Index report dated March 22, 2021, companies are classified into six categories considered to be the industry’s most significant transgressions: transparency, emissions, water and chemicals, materials, workers’ rights and waste. All of the companies listed above, with the exception of LVMH, score well over 40 for their overall rating. So compliance with a new ruling in New York State, one of America’s strongest markets, should be transparent.

Swedish model

H&M, which at first glance appears to be one of the biggest fashion offenders due to the sheer volume of low-cost disposable clothing they produce, is among Sweden’s sustainability leaders, according to Catarina Midby, Head of Fashion Stockholm Week. “The largest Swedish brand H&M leads the Fashion Revolution Transparency Index, which indicates the level of engagement as it leads and invests in numerous sustainability initiatives for the trendy fashion industry. nationally and globally. 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 patterns in this space. In addition, we will showcase brands that work with alternative and circular business models. “

Midby strongly supports laws to enforce these practices, citing actions taken by Swedish brands. “Transparency is the key to lasting change for our industry, but it shouldn’t be voluntary action like it is now, which is why I strongly support the Fashion Act in New York. Here in Sweden, designers and brands are increasingly prioritizing investing in reporting on climate and social impact across their value chain and actions to improve and reduce it. This means that brands must have a committed sustainability agenda and they must also 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, Swedish sustainable men’s clothing brand ASKET shares the path that clothing takes from concept to purchase, almost to nausea, according to founder August Bard Bringéus.

Transparency at any size

Closer to home, although this will not affect them initially, the industry is considering the proposed legislation. For jewelry brand Deepa Gurnani, founded by husband-and-wife duo Jay Lakhani and Deepa Gurnani, which manufactures products in India, it’s an enduring challenge that this small business would gladly accept if the legislation extended to small brands.

“I am 100% for this new law that New York State is trying to implement. Our industry is changing at such a rapid pace that no one can keep up. This law would help us all to take a step back and think about how to properly implement this change in our supply chain. It will be difficult at first for any business. Yet in the long run, this is where we should be heading to preserve our planet and future generations, ”said Lakhani, who also sits on the props board. President Karen Giberson, editor of Accessories Council magazine, agrees but cautiously. “The spirit of the state’s effort is well-intentioned, but I’m concerned about how quickly they want to apply it and how difficult it is to keep up with transparency.”

AERA, a line of vegan and sustainable footwear, is a naturally and purposefully sustainable small business that could lead others to seek 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 lead our industry in the right direction, ”said co-founder Tina Bhojwani.

“Our initial approach was to perform a lifecycle assessment with the support of SCS Global Services (a third-party certification agency specializing in science-based measurement and transparency) and partner with organizations offering certifications. We have received The Butterfly Mark by Positive Luxury, and more recently the B Corp certification to validate our work.

Bhojwani, also a co-founder of Figure Eight and a pop-up of sustainable luxury goods in Soho, believes government intervention is the only way forward and businesses of all sizes should embrace it. “The only way to achieve meaningful change is for the government to create legislation and standards by which businesses must operate. The fashion industry lacks regulation and I am proud that New York City is leading such a crucial initiative, especially since it is a fashion capital of the world. In addition, thanks to science, technology and the innovative nature of the industry, there are many opportunities to operate under a system of ethics, accountability and transparency at any scale.


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