Happy New Year (are we still saying that?) from the Global Supply Chain Law Bog!  In our ever-evolving society, the fashion industry has taken new heights.  And with those heights, the industry is on pace to account for more than a quarter of the world’s carbon budget, according to the New Standard Institute.   Indeed, the group indicates that apparel and footwear are responsible for roughly 4-8.6% of global greenhouse gas emissions.  You may be wondering, “but how?”  Well after that sweater you bought last year (or even last month!) goes out of style, you may donate it.   According to CBS, some of those donations go overseas to Ghana, for example, to be sold.  The unsold clothes, however, end up as landfills creating an environmental nightmare.

As a result and in an effort to create more regulation, New York is taking action with respect to the environmental nightmare. Earlier this year, the New York legislator proposed a bill—the Fashion sustainability and social accountability act, which would amend the general business law, requiring fashion retail sellers and manufacturers to disclose environmental and social due diligence and policies.

Specifically, every fashion retail seller and fashion manufacturer doing business in the State of New York and having annual global gross revenues that exceed $100 million dollars must disclose its:

  1. environmental and social due diligence[1] policies,
  2. processes and outcomes, including significant real or potential negative environmental and social impacts, and
  3. targets for impact reductions, implementation, improvement and compliance on an annual basis.

The required disclosures would include supply chain mapping of at least 50% of suppliers (which the retail seller or manufacturer could choose) by volume across all tiers of production, a sustainability report, independently verified greenhouse gas reporting, volume of production displaced with recycled materials, and median wages of workers of suppliers compared with local minimum wage, to name a few.

All disclosures must be posted on the retail or manufacturer’s website within a year of enactment.  Enforcement of the bill would fall to the state’s attorney general, who would publish a report listing the fashion retail sellers and manufactures who are out of compliance with the act. Public shaming would not be the only punishment, however.  Retailers and manufacturers who fail to comply may be fined up to 2% of annual revenues of $450 million or more.  The money from the fines will be deposited into a community benefit fund, which will be used for environmental benefit projects that directly and verifiably benefit environmental justice communities.

In short, if the Fashion sustainability and social accountability act is enacted into law, fashion retailers and manufactures will be held accountable for environmental and social impacts stemming from their supply chain and production of apparel and shoes.  According to Vogue, “proponents say the bill will make history” as it could “shift how the fashion industry operates globally.” Thus, stay tuned as we will be tracking the legislation closely and will provide real time updates!

[1] “Due diligence” shall mean the process companies should carry  out to  identify,  prevent, mitigate and account or how they address actual and potential adverse impacts in  their  own  operations,  their  supply chain  and other Business relationships, as recommended in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Guidelines  for  Multinational  Enterprises,  the  Organisation  for Economic  Co-Operation and Development Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct  and United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights.