‘Fashion Act’ to Hold Fashion Industry Accountable in New York
January 7, 2022
New Bill Targets Industry Long Fraught with Negative Social and Environmental Impacts
New York, NY (January 7, 2022) — Today, the Act on Fashion Coalition, along with designer Stella McCartney, announced a groundbreaking new bill in New York State – the Fashion Act. Bill sponsors Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Assemblymember Dr. Anna Kelles introduced The Fashion Act (The Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act) S7428/A8352 to address the social and environmental toll taken by the global fashion industry. The bill is supported by the Act on Fashion Coalition, which includes New Standard Institute, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), Environmental Advocates New York, New York Communities for Change, South Asian Fund for Education Scholarship and Training (SAFEST), Ferrara Manufacturing, EarthDay.org, Oceanic, Uprose, and the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.
“This legislation will require companies to perform mandatory due diligence to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for actual and potential adverse social and environmental impacts in their supply chain,” said Maxine Bédat, Director of the New Standard Institute. “New Yorkers have a powerful role to play in ensuring industries are practicing ethical standards in labor and environmental sustainability while at the same time ensuring a thriving local industry.”
“The fashion industry is responsible for a staggering 4 – 8.6% of global greenhouse gas emissions and has been permitted to operate unchecked by regulations that would curb pollution and the use of exploited, forced, and child labor,” said Assemblymember Dr. Anna Kelles (D-125), Prime Assembly Sponsor of the bill. “It is essential that we ensure industries are practicing ethical standards in labor and environmental sustainability while at the same time ensuring a thriving statewide fashion industry. This legislation will institute common sense protections by requiring that any apparel and footwear retailer with global revenue of at least $100 million selling its products in New York would be required to map their supply chains, disclose environmental and social impacts, and set binding targets to reduce those impacts. The Fashion Act is good for the environment, good for workers, good for industry, and good for New York, the world’s fashion capital.”
Under the bill, all apparel and footwear retailers with global revenue of at least $100 million selling its products in New York State would be required to map their supply chains, disclose environmental and social impacts, and set binding targets to reduce those impacts. Impact reductions include mandatory science-based targets, ensuring the fashion industry operates within the bounds of the Paris Climate Agreement. Companies will also be required to disclose their material use, by material type and the wages of workers. Noncompliant companies will be required to pay fines, the revenue of which will fund projects specifically for New York’s environmental justice communities.
“With the Fashion Act, companies will need to track and reduce their environmental impact across the supply chain and make progress on reducing those impacts by doing things like decarbonizing manufacturing, using more recycled fiber, increasing the use of sustainable transport, minimizing production and manufacturing waste, and reducing overproduction,” said Rich Schrader, NY Legislative and Policy Director for NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “The fashion industry has one of the largest global carbon footprints, so making a concerted effort here is an important front in the battle against climate change.”
Apparel and footwear are responsible for an under-acknowledged part of global greenhouse gas emissions, contributing between 4-8.6%. Unlike other heavy polluting industries such as the auto sector, fashion retailers and manufacturers operate in a regulatory-free vacuum. This has led to a global race to the bottom, where the companies that have the least regard for the environment and for workers have the greatest competitive edge.
“To be truly modern, you must initiate and embrace change. Fashion is one of the most harmful industries to the planet. Collectively, it’s crucial that we, as an industry, commit now to taking measurable action towards mitigating our impact for a more sustainable, ethical and mindful future. The Fashion Act is an example of a step towards a better, more regulated future. Our duty is clear, and now more than ever, we need to make changes to the way in which we do business. Action cannot be delayed and we need to commit to making a difference,” said leading fashion designer Stella McCartney.
“As a global fashion and business capital of the world, New York State has a moral responsibility to serve as a leader in mitigating the environmental and social impact of the fashion industry. I am incredibly proud to introduce and sponsor the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act— a groundbreaking piece of legislation that will make New York the global leader in holding the $2.5 trillion fashion industry accountable and ensuring labor, human rights, and environmental protections are prioritized. I’m grateful to Assemblymember Dr. Anna Kelles and New Standard Institute for their partnership in developing this transformative and historic legislation, and look forward to the further support of my Legislative colleagues, advocates, and industry leaders to pass this legislation,” said New York State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, Prime Senate Sponsor of the bill.
“In order to successfully combat the effects of climate change, we must fundamentally improve the practices of all sectors of our society, including the apparel and footwear industry,” said State Senator Brian Kavanagh, who co-sponsors the bill. “It is clear that many actors in the apparel and footwear industry do business in ways that not only harm our environment, but also exploit workers around the globe. As the fashion capital of the world, New York has an important role to play in ensuring compliance with environmental standards and protecting workers’ rights. I look forward to working with Senator Biaggi, Assemblymember Kelles, and the New Standard Institute to pass the Fashion Accountability and Sustainability Act.”
“The Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act is a big step Albany should take towards reigning in so-called ‘fast fashion’ and forcing large clothing manufacturers and distributors to examine their supply chains, become compliant with our climate goals and disclose environmental and societal impacts, including for workers. As a Senator representing the Fashion and Garment districts in Manhattan, I’m proud to fight alongside my colleagues Senator Biaggi and Assemblymember Kelles to help make this bill a law.“ said State Senator Brad Hoylman, representing the New York City Garment District and co-sponsor of the bill.
“The fashion industry is one of the world’s worst polluters. I am proud to co-sponsor the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act as it will push large fashion retailers and manufacturers doing business in New York to be transparent about their environmental and labor practices, while holding them accountable if they are unwilling to meet the benchmarks set by this groundbreaking bill,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera, co-sponsor of the bill. “Given that New York is one of the world’s fashion capitals, it is critical that we lead by example, and this bill will go a long way in ensuring that we meet our climate goals.”
The Act on Fashion Coalition includes:
New Standard Institute, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC); New York Communities for Change; Environmental Advocates New York; South Asian Fund for Education Scholarship and Training (SAFEST); Ferrara Manufacturing; EARTHDAY.ORG; Oceanic; Uprose; and the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.
“The fashion industry has a massive impact on our planet. It has faced virtually no regulation, which has tipped off a race to the bottom where the companies with the least regard for the environment and for people have the greatest competitive edge. This needs to end. New York is the fashion capital of the United States. It needs to support its own industry by ending the race to the bottom. We call on our legislators to act on fashion and pass the Fashion Act.”
“Oceanic Global through our Blue Standard program recognizes the role of industry accountability in driving sustainable action for our blue planet and collective wellbeing. This is particularly true for the fashion industry, which in its current state has caused negative impacts including marine plastic pollution, water scarcity, waste production, greenhouse gas emissions, and exploitation of unjust labor. Mandatory reporting on social and environmental impacts through material disclosures and wage transparency is a necessary first step to identify the scope of the issue as well as to create a level playing field and celebrate responsible business leadership.”
“The practices and impacts of the apparel industry in its global race to the bottom affect us all. Halfway around the world, our Bangladeshi brothers and sisters working as garment workers suffer silently from low wages and poor working conditions; our people suffer openly from the lack of clean water which no longer exists due to environmental pollutions; our children suffer unknowingly as forests, creeks and the ocean are no longer safe to be their playground. Our Bangladeshi American community in New York is extremely concerned as we hear horror stories from our loved ones back home about the apparel industry’s disregard for environmental and labor impacts in Bangladesh and globally. We firmly believe that as one of the leaders of the world and as a global fashion capital, New York must do more to ensure price wars do not result in human hardship elsewhere.”
Founder and CEO
South Asian Fund for Education, Scholarship and Training LLC (SAFEST)
“The fashion industry is one of the largest employers in the world, employing millions globally. In order to protect the global workforce and environment, it is essential we stop the race to the bottom on labor prices, which has proliferated bad labor and environmental practices over the last several decades. As a New York-based garment manufacturer, we support the Fashion Act legislation to install both incentives and regulations to ensure our industry changes for the better. The Fashion Act should be the start of a conversation between brands, manufacturers, and legislators to work together to promote community and environmental sustainability.”
Chief Operating Officer
“Our economy is addicted to fast fashion. It is a trillion dollar industry that demands new trends and styles by the week and month. But frontline environmental justice communities are forced to pay the price for this unsustainable consumption – the same communities who suffer from a legacy of pollution and health disparities are also exploited with low wages and face chronic health issues from toxic exposure and lack of worker protection.This Bill offers protection and accountability ”
Executive Director, UPROSE
Steering Committee Co-Chair, Climate Justice Alliance
“Fashion shouldn’t pollute the world: it’s time for New York to help clean up the apparel industry’s act”
Climate & Inequality Campaigns Director
New York Communities for Change
“New York emerged as a climate action leader in 2019 with the passage of New York State’s landmark climate law. So it is fitting that New York should also lead in reining in the fashion industry for its rampant climate abuse – and will do so by passing the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act. Not only does New York have a responsibility to hold one of our flagship industries accountable, but in doing so, will serve as a model for other government leaders to follow suit, both nationally and internationally. Our frontline communities that are disproportionately vulnerable to climate change impacts deserve no less”
New York Environmental Justice Alliance
“New York is the fashion capital of the world—what better place to lead a climate revolution of the fashion industry? We know that clothing and footwear account for significant part of the world’s global greenhouse gas footprint. Legislation holding the industry to account for its climate impacts is long overdue. We look forward to working with state leaders to make sure the industry adopts stricter environmental standards and greater climate safe practices.”
Environmental Advocates NY
About New Standard Institute
New Standard Institute is an independent think and do tank using data to turn industry into a force for good. For a link to bill details: https://www.newstandardinstitute.org/thefashionact