In New York and Beyond, Why the Fashion Act Matters

Illustration of a person wearing patterned clothing using a sewing machine.Illustration of a person wearing patterned clothing using a sewing machine.

The New York Fashion Law is a groundbreaking bill aimed at combating environmental and labor rights abuses within fashion supply chains. Here’s how to support it.

The social and environmental impact of the fashion industry is nothing short of catastrophic. emit More greenhouse gas emissions Of Germany, France and the United Kingdom combined, it is responsible for this 20% of the world’s total clean water pollution; It leads to overconsumption and generates waste that eventually ends up in waste Landfills across the Global South; It relies on mass cultivation of materials such as cotton, which requires intensive use of water associated with deforestation and human rights violations In biodiverse areas such as the Amazon.

The problem with the fashion system is that it’s a “lawless world,” according to Maxine Bedat, founder and director of sustainable fashion think tank the New Standard Institute and author of Sustainable Fashion. Revealed: The life and death of clothes. “If you look at any other industry that has changed its ways, it’s not because of voluntary efforts at all. Why do we think it would be different one way or another?” [our] industry?”

That’s why Bedat leads the passing mission Fashion law– A new piece of proposed legislation targets environmental and labor rights abuses within fashion supply chains – in the New York State Legislature.

The Fashion Code is a pioneering policy that addresses the multifaceted challenges faced by the industry by setting standards for social and environmental responsibility.

“This is comprehensive legislation,” said journalist, climate advocate and Fashion Law Ambassador Sophia Lee. “It has all the intersections that other policies look at and try to address [individually]. When it comes to national and international fashion policy, it is on par with the policy passed in the European Union.

In essence, the law Addresses environmental degradation By requiring companies – at a minimum – to set, adopt and achieve science-based targets to reduce carbon emissions; These are five- to 10-year targets that set out how quickly companies must cut their emissions to adhere to the Paris Agreement goals of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with the goal of limiting that to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The law too Addresses the endemic issue of chemical mismanagement In fashion supply chains, it requires companies to collaborate with their suppliers to reduce the environmental impact of the use of chemicals in the production of clothing. As a major producer of wastewater, this provision aims to put an end to the fashion industry’s pollution of waterways.h Toxic waste that chronically endangers the health of textile workers and neighboring communities.

“The abuse of this planet is unacceptable – especially to serve an unnecessary industry like fast fashion. We can all contribute and work to reverse this abuse.

Anna Sachs

Fashion Law Ambassador

The law too Tightening worker protection measures Within the fashion system. The law provides for fair labor practices through legal safeguards for garment workers that will help them receive their legal wages – an essential step towards combating the prevailing issue of Labor exploitation and wage theft within the industry. The framing of effective due diligence in fashion law means that if garment workers are not paid their due wages, and have evidence of this in relation to the brands they produce for, then the brand will, by definition, be out of compliance with the law. The hope is that these provisions will enable the law to develop a comprehensive approach to sustainability and social responsibility, which will be supported by stringent enforcement measures.

Building on legislative efforts in Europe, the law promotes a single reporting structure that will simplify compliance and enhance accountability across the fashion sector. the Reporting requirements They include supply chain mapping, social and environmental sustainability reports that outline company policies and results, disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions and materials used, and average worker pay. By unifying due diligence efforts across brands while maintaining specificity in objectives across key areas such as climate, chemicals management and labor rights, the law sets a precedent for global action towards a fairer fashion industry.

The fashion law specifically targets companies with large carbon footprints, not independent designers or small brands. The regulation would only apply to any company with global revenues of more than $100 million, and would extend beyond the United States by affecting any brands that sell in New York state. The idea is to capitalize on New York’s status as a… The tenth largest global economythe law incentivizes compliance by linking access to this market with adherence to its regulations – and this is how the law aims to stimulate systemic change within the industry.

“If Bangladesh increases the country’s minimum wage, but other provinces do not also raise wages, then these other countries will become more competitive,” Bedat said. “We need to create disincentives to this race to the bottom. That’s why having regulation in consuming countries is so important for any efforts that happen in producing countries.”

Fashion law that was posed at the beginning In the 2022 New York legislative session by Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Assemblywoman Dr. Anna Kelis, who is now with state legislators after having been It was reintroduced in 2023On May 7, supporters of the bill will travel to Albany to advocate for its passage. Public support for the bill will likely focus on its industry-leading cross-cutting approach to regulation; Recognizes the systemic injustices embedded in the industry that impact local communities and ecosystems around the world.

“There are a lot of workers who are underpaid and abused; “Women of color are often in the Global South,” he told me. Atmos. “From an environmental point of view, the misuse of chemicals is… [mismanaged] Textile mill waste ends up affecting local communities; Their drinking water systems and the biodiversity of their ecosystem. So, [without proper regulation]This becomes a perpetual cycle that never ends.

“If a fashion company can’t meet this basic legislation, should it even be in business?”

Sophia Lee

Fashion Law Ambassador

It’s a sentiment echoed by fellow Fashion Law ambassador Anna Sachs. “Misusing this planet is unacceptable — especially to serve a non-essential industry like fast fashion,” added Sachs, who is also known as the “trash peddler” on social media because he roams the streets uncovering the contents of residential and business trash cans. “We can all contribute and work to reverse this abuse.”

For those in New York, participating in the coalition’s advocacy efforts on May 7 is crucial. By physically attending and making noise, participants can urge lawmakers to prioritize the bill for a vote during the next legislative session. Sharing information about the law on social media is also vital to raising awareness, as is engaging with state legislators through tweets, calls and emails.

Individuals outside of New York can also reach out to their local representatives to express their support for the Fashion Law and advocate for its passage in their state or territory. For example, lawmakers in Washington state are now considering the bill after a student group reached out to representatives to show their support for the bill, according to Bedat. Even at the international level, individuals can look to fashion law to suggest similar policies in their local governments. “The policy, wherever it is passed, whether at the state level, national level or EU level across multiple municipalities, ultimately ends up creating a groundswell for other policies to take effect,” Lee said. “That’s what we hope for.”

Ultimately, collective action across states, regions and countries strengthens the movement towards a responsible and fair fashion industry. Transforming a system as influential, pervasive, and profitable as fashion’s will require citizens around the world to advocate for legislative change that holds companies accountable in meaningful ways. Approval of the Fashion Law is a necessary step in this direction.

“If a fashion company can’t meet this basic legislation, should it even be in business?” He said to me. “We ask fashion companies to be the most sustainable brands in the world. This is not them Minimum standards, which include 18 action pointsWhich Copenhagen Fashion Week asks brands to adhere to. This is very basic; It’s the minimum.

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