Slacker’s Syllabus: The Fashion Act

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Fashion Week, meet the Fashion Act

New York has long been host to one of the fashion industry’s biggest events, in New York Fashion Week. But soon, it may also host the most meaningful piece of legislation regarding that industry and its environmental impact.

If passed, the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act, or Fashion Act, could hold brands accountable for their role in climate change.

Here is what’s in the bill and what it could mean for fashion going forward.

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The Fashion Act requires companies to:

-Map out at least 50% of their supply chain, showing where they obtain their raw materials, what farms and factories they work with, and how they ship their goods

-Disclose which parts of their supply chain have the greatest social and environmental impact, including issues with wages, energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and pollution

-Publish how much they sell, and make that information available online for consumers to see

-Make specific plans to reduce carbon emissions and comply with targets set by the Paris Agreement

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Who would be affected?
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Any apparel or footwear company with more than $100 million in revenue that’s doing business in New York would have to comply with the law.

That’s essentially all the big names in fashion. Prada, Armani, Gucci, and Chanel would be affected, as would fast-fashion companies like H&M and Zara.

What if they don’t comply?

Companies would be given 12 months to begin complying with the new requirements.

Companies that fail to do so would be publicly named by the New York attorney general and could be fined up to 2% of their annual revenues by the state. The money collected from these fines would be handed off to New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation to fund environmental justice projects.

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Fashion’s impact

Creating the clothes we all wear has a surprisingly large impact on the environment.

Up to 10% of the world’s total carbon emissions are created by the fashion industry. Nearly 20% of all wastewater is produced by clothing manufacturers, and almost half of the industry’s supply chain is linked to deforestation.

Fast fashion, the practice of selling fashionable but cheap goods by cutting corners in labor and quality, has created a cycle of trashing clothes rather than keeping them in circulation. Clothing production has doubled since 2000, and most of the clothes are ending up in the dump.

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It’s not just fast fashion It’s not just fast fashion It’s not just fast fashion It’s not just fast fashion

The climate impacts of fast fashion are more publicized because of the pollution and waste associated with disposable clothes, but it’s not just the cheap stuff that is hurting us.

Luxury fashion brands have been found to have ties to companies causing massive deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

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The fashion industry has a long way to go.

A report titled Fashion Forward published by Stand.Earth graded major fashion brands on their overall environmental impact, taking into account everything from the types of fibers they use to their shipping practices.

No company scored higher than a B+.

Most companies remain significantly behind in meeting the standards of the Paris Agreement and are passing off things like carbon offsets as real solutions rather than temporary ones. Reliance on coal, use of fossil fuel-derived fabrics, and wasteful shipping continue to hold the industry back.

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Will the Fashion Act change anything?

It’s hard to say.

First, the bill has to pass. While it has lots of supporters, reports indicate that the fashion industry is already pushing back on it.

Assuming it does pass, it could set a trend for how the fashion industry is regulated. Other states may pass similar legislation. Other countries, like those in the European Union, are also looking into laws to regulate the industry.

The Fashion Act could make environmentally-friendly fashion, well, fashionable.


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