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Fashion supply chains could be going green

New York legislation would require sustainability disclosures for fashion retailers

Fast fashion is a term bandied about to describe fashion items that are made fast, changed fast, delivered fast and disposed of fast to maximize profits and encourage people to buy new things quickly.

The Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act proposed in the state of New York could address some of the sustainability issues that go along with fast fashion and fashion retailers in general.

Any fashion retailer or manufacturer that does business in the state of New York and has annual worldwide revenue exceeding $100 million would have to disclose its environmental and social policies and impacts. It also would have to create targets and strategies to prevent and reduce adverse environmental and social impacts, according to the bill.

“The fashion industry is responsible for a staggering 4% to 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,” Assemblymember Anna Kelles, sponsor of the bill, said in a release

“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,” Kelles said. “The Fashion Act is good for the environment, good for workers, good for industry and good for New York, the world’s fashion capital.”

The bill, if passed, would require retailers to disclose their worker wages and what materials they use in products. Companies would also have to set science-based targets to reduce all scopes of emissions that are in line with the apparel and footwear sector targets and the World Resources Institute. 

Retailers would have to map at least 50% of their suppliers by volume across all tiers of production, which could be a major challenge for some fashion brands. These requirements would be enforceable by the attorney general.

And there would be hefty financial impacts for lack of compliance. If it was found that fashion retailers and manufacturers were not complying with the act’s requirements, companies would have three months to meet the obligations before they “may be fined up to 2% of annual revenues of $450 million or more,” the bill said.

The collected funds would go to a community benefit fund to support environmental conservation projects that “directly and verifiably benefit environmental justice communities.”

Read: What does sustainability mean for supply chains?

Greening the fashion supply chain

Retailers are facing pressure from government regulations and customers to track and reduce negative environmental and social impacts throughout their supply chains. 

Fashion retailers and manufacturers are not immune to this pressure. Since most GHG emissions for retailers come from their supply chains, or their scope 3 emissions, it’s not easy to track and reduce the majority of their emissions.

“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,” Rich Schrader, New York legislative and policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said in the release.

In addition to NRDC, organizations supporting the legislation are Act on Fashion Coalition, Environmental Advocates New York, New York Communities for Change, South Asian Fund for Education Scholarship and Training, Ferrara Manufacturing,, Oceanic, Uprose and the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance.

Read: Finding sustainable suppliers — Net-Zero Carbon

The Stella McCartney fashion brand is also backing the bill. 

“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,” McCartney said in the release. 

WATCH: Exploring what “Sustainability” Means for Supply Chains

“This proposal will act as an additional accelerant for sustainable supply chains. Large firms have known for a while that additional environmental, social and governance disclosures will be required of them by regulators and financiers. Now is the time for the broader supply base to understand the value in collaboration and transparency as it relates to this data. Customer scrutiny over ESG data metrics will increase exponentially as the network effect of climate pledges and corporate emission reduction targets continues to expand,” said Tyler Cole, director of carbon intelligence at FreightWaves.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Alyssa Sporrer.

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Alyssa Sporrer

Alyssa is a staff writer at FreightWaves, covering sustainability news in the freight and supply chain industry, from low-carbon fuels to social sustainability, emissions & more. She graduated from Iowa State University with a double major in Marketing and Environmental Studies. She is passionate about all things environmental and enjoys outdoor activities such as skiing, ultimate frisbee, hiking, and soccer.