I want to talk about the “Fashion Act” that was proposed in the New York State Assembly in October. It’s NY Assembly Bill A8352, the “Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act.” You can read it here. It’s not long—four pages tops if you buzz through the definition section.
What’s the take home, you ask?
If you are a fashion retailer or manufacturer who makes more than $100 million annually, then you would have to disclose some environmental and labor practices (of 50% of your supply chains) on your website or risk being fined, sued or listed as “noncompliant.”
Having more information on environmental and labor practices would be helpful. It says 100% cotton on the tag of the new t-shirt I want, and that it’s made in China. But I don’t know anything about how the t-shirt was made or, the environmental impact from that manufacturing process. Sometimes there is some information on clothing company activities, but it can be conflicting, or evolving, or just plain untrue. (“Greenwashing” is when a company’s environmentally clean image is false). One reason I shop resale is because it is hard to find out, with any certainty, how things are made. This New York bill, if it passes, will reveal which companies are keeping with the standards in the bill and which aren’t. That’s good for the consumer who wants to make informed decisions about clothing purchases.
But that’s not why this bill is a big deal.
This law is important because it is about corporate responsibility, and it might be a starting point for regulating an industry that produces 10% of humanity's carbon emissions.
Which heretofore has not been regulated.
Sure, I want to be responsible about my clothing purchases in that I want to be deliberate about my choices. But it is not my responsibility to limit carbon emissions in the fashion industry. It is theirs.
The fashion industry could regulate itself and commit to reducing carbon emissions. But they have not and will not. To steal a line from a Wire article by Alden Wicker, the fashion industry has “more commitment phobia than a 24-year-old on Tinder…”
Great line. I’ll use that one again.
There are arguments that this bill does not go far enough (companies must disclose practices in 50% of their supply chains, not all). This is a good point. But even having the discussion about these issues is a step forward in my mind. New York, the fashion capital of this country, is saying that if you want to do business here, then show yourself, and comply. Why? Because we as a state care about environmental and labor practices and processes in your industry.
Sure I want fashion. But what I really want is a livable planet. We as individuals can make change with our own purchasing power, but the fashion industry needs to take responsibility for what it has done, and change going forward.
Not for nothing it’s about time.
New York representatives will vote on this bill in the spring. If you are so inclined, and live in New York, please drop them a line about why you want this bill to pass.
Winds of change? You betcha. LFG.