The New York state legislature has unveiled the Fashion Sustainability Act, a bill that could hold global fashion brands accountable for their role in climate change. 

New York could become the first state in the US to pass legislation requiring global fashion brands to disclose their companies’ climate and environmental impacts in a move to hold fashion brands accountable and to boost their action in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

The Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act, which was sponsored by State Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Assemblywoman Anna R. Kelles, was introduced to the New York state legislature on Friday, January 7. The bill was also backed by a number of sustainable fashion nonprofits including the New Standard Institute, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, as well as the designer Stella McCartney. 

Should the Fashion Sustainability Act pass, the law will require global fashion companies, including the likes of Armani, LVMH, and Nike, to map out a minimum of 50% of their supply chain, from the farming of raw materials to shipping, and disclose the social and environmental impacts throughout the chain. This includes fair labour wages, greenhouse gas emission, and water waste and management, all of which must be made accessible to the public. Under the Act, fashion brands must set targets in accordance with the Paris Agreement – to limit global warming to at least 1.5C above pre-industrial level – and provide a plan based on it. 

“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,” State Senator Biaggi wrote in a press release. She adds that the law is “a groundbreaking piece of legislation that will make New York the global leader” in holding the fashion industry “accountable”, as well as ensuring that “labour, human rights, and environmental protections are prioritised.”

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The global fashion industry currently accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions, which is more than both the aviation and shipping sectors combined, and nearly 20% of global wastewater, according to the UN Environment Programme. Every year, the industry generates an estimated 92 million tonnes of textiles waste, which is set to soar up to 134 million tonnes a year by 2030. This worsening trend can be mostly attributed to the growth of fast fashion, where brands rapidly produce and roll out cheap and low quality clothing, which consumers discard after only a few wears. 

Under the new law, companies that fail to comply may be fined up to 2% of annual revenues of $450 million or more, which will be redirected to a new Community Fund under the Department of Environmental Conservation, and be used for environmental justice projects. Fashion brands are given 12 months to submit their mapping directive and 18 months to share their social and climate impacts.

Featured image by: Anthony Quintano/Flickr