New York State can take a first step of its kind to address the environmental impact of the fashion industry.
A bill before the New York State Assembly called the “Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act,” or Fashion Act, would require apparel and footwear brands that operate in New York State and have more than $100 million in revenue worldwide to environmental and social impact of their activities. The bill, first introduced in October, was discussed by the Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee last month.
The introduction of the bill comes as the fashion industry has come under increasing scrutiny for its excessive climate impact and unsustainable practices. Fashion contributed to 2 to 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. The industry also generates a lot of waste: according to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans threw away 17 million tons of textiles in 2018, of which only 2.5 million tons were recycled. Industry is also responsible for 20 percent of global wastewater, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.
The new law says companies operating in New York must provide greater transparency about their supply chain, disclose the environmental and social impacts of their practices, and report any impact reduction targets or strategies. Companies that fail to comply with the law can be fined up to 2 percent of their annual sales of $450 million or more, money spent on environmental justice efforts.
New York Assembly Member Phara Souffrant Forrest, a co-sponsor on the bill, told: The edge in an emailed statement that the impact of so-called “fast fashion” on the climate has been largely ignored in discussions about climate change. “The Fashion Act will bring much-needed transparency and awareness about the climate impacts of current garment manufacturing practices and will pave the way for significant changes in harmful manufacturing practices and potentially more sustainable trend cycles!”
But some outside experts think this initial effort isn’t enough, citing the bill’s requirement for brands to map only 50 percent of their supply chain.
“This bill is a good step, but it needs to be more concrete and comprehensive. The fashion supply chain is very complex and it is vital to have transparency and accountability,” said Anupama Pasricha, professor of fashion design and merchandising at St. Catherine University. The edge. While Pasricha says the bill “positions” New York to become a sustainable fashion leader, she warns that, as it is currently written, it “leaves wiggle room or gaps that could cloud the intended outcome.”
The bill is currently before the committee. It’s unclear if it will hit the conference floor for a vote this year. The current New York state legislative session ends in June.