The US state of New York is considering new legislation that would hold big fashion firms responsible for human rights and sustainability issues in their global supply chains.
Footwear and fashion brands and retailers operating in New York would be expected to “identify, prevent, mitigate, and account for how they handle” the negative effects of their global production under the sustainability law.
The Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act would apply to any footwear and apparel brand that does business in the state and have a global revenue of at least USD 100 million. Brands would be obliged to map at least half of their supply chain, beginning with farms where they get raw ingredients and ending with New York weighs strong sustainability regulations for the fashion industry manufacturing and shipping.
According to a report published by The New York Times, they would then be required to set and achieve Science-Based Targets; to disclose where in the supply chain they have the greatest social and environmental impact in terms of fair wages, energy, greenhouse gas emissions, water and chemical management; to perform mandatory due diligence to avoid labor abuses and make concrete plans to reduce those numbers.
Finally, it would compel businesses to disclose their material production volumes, such as how much cotton, leather, or polyester they sell. This information would have to be made available online.
In summary, the bill would make it illegal for a company to do business in New York unless it can demonstrate that it is concerned about the environment and people. It would also remove a source of customer confusion: those of us who want to shop ethically often can’t tell which brands are actually doing something, which ones are inflating their efforts, and which ones aren’t doing anything at all.
Maxine Bédat, the founder of the New Standard Institute, explained that right now, organizations are uncompetitive if they do the right thing. That isn’t a winning strategy. By making these restrictions the ground rules for doing business, every corporation will be forced to conform and do the right thing. They can, of course, go above and beyond and demonstrate leadership in different ways.
Companies would have 12 months to comply with the mapping directive and 18 months to disclose their impact. Fines of up to 2% of yearly earnings would be imposed for violations, with fines going to a Community Fund managed by the Department of Environmental Conservation and utilized for environmental justice projects. A list of companies judged to be non-compliant would be published annually by the New York attorney general.
Introduced by The New Standard Institute and sponsored by senator Alessandra Biaggi and assembly member Dr. Anna Kelles, the bill is backed by a coalition of non-profits focused on fashion and sustainability, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, as well as designer Stella McCartney.
In a Facebook post, Biaggi said that ultimately, this bill will oblige the fashion industry to minimize its vast carbon footprint and establish a viable, sustainable, and egalitarian garment sector— something that has never been legislated before in the US.
She also turned to Twitter, saying that by 2050, the industry may account for more than a quarter of the world’s carbon budget.