Stella McCartney's Men's Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2020 presentation. The designer is among the bill's backers. (Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images)
A couple months ago, in January 2022, New York legislators proposed a new bill to be passed that would force larger companies that do business in New York to be held accountable for their environmental impact. The act is called the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act or the 'Fashion Act' for short. The law is targeting global companies that do over $100 million in annual revenue that do business in New York to create environmental and social governance reporting.
What would they have to report?
- Companies must map a minimum of 50% of their supply chain; this includes where they get their raw materials and the factories that they use to create the items
- Companies must report how much greenhouse gas they emit, their usage of plastic, water, and energy, their chemical management, and fair wages
- All usage and reporting must meet the diligence protocol set by the United Nation's guiding principles and human rights
What is the penalty for companies that don't meet the requirements?
For companies that fail to meet the compliance of the Fashion Act, they will be forced to pay a fine of up to 2% of their annual revenues.
Why is this important?
I was honestly really excited to see this act trying to be passed by legislators in New York because it seems like a really huge step forward. Currently, fast fashion companies like H&M, Zara, and Shein are the largest contributors to pollution and unethical labor practices. The act was written on the basis that these companies have no incentive to change their practices without government intervention to hold them accountable.
While there are many startups, including Everewear, and small businesses that are offering customers an alternative to fast fashion companies, they make up a very small percentage of the marketplace. There is also science that creates a very bleak outlook for the resale and rental industries with the average percentage of carbon emissions obviated due to resale amounts to far less than one hundredth of 1% and rental only reduces CO2 by 3% versus conventional new apparel buying. With these new ways to purchase fashion making very little impact in the scheme of the larger picture, it is important to go straight to the source of a lot of the harm being done. By forcing transparency from the bigger companies making the largest impact, this will hopefully create positive change in the harmful supply chains.