Legislation emerges for U.S. fashion industry

by Nicole Tutino –

Photo: Ekaterina Bolovtsova via Pexels.com

Laws can help enforce ethical and sustainable actions by fashion brands in their supply chain and distribution processes.

Garment factory conditions often conflict with workers’ safety, due to long working hours, health effects and unstable building structures. 

In 2022, the Garment Worker Protection Act was enacted in California. The state law prohibits the piece rate payment system which refers to wages distributed based on the number of apparel pieces a worker creates. Piece rate compensation often fails to provide garment workers with sufficient income.

Recently, The Business of Fashion reported that California-based manufacturers of apparel brands failed to meet the garment worker compensation requirements of the state’s laws. 

New York may join California with the state’s own fashion-related legislation.

Originally proposed in 2021, The Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act requires sustainability and ethical workplace practices for brands operating or selling products in New York.

According to The New York State Senate, the bill features “due diligence” requirements that detail solutions to combat unethical practices within the fashion industry impacting workers’ rights and the environment.

The section’s facets include supply chain transparency, which refers to the identification of suppliers used in apparel production to understand working conditions and the origins of materials used. Although the bill does not require all levels of suppliers to be completely reported, the increased legal supervision intends to restrict unethical actions.

Environmental requirements relate to fashion companies’ developing plans to restrict their involvement in climate change through limited greenhouse gas emissions and the disclosure of the brands’ emissions.

Fashion brands that receive an income of at least 100 million dollars each year will be required to adhere to the act’s guidelines. With about 900 apparel brands housed in New York City, the bill’s reach can be widespread. According to the New York Fashion Act, brands failing to comply with the bill can “be fined up to 2% of annual revenues.”

Patagonia, Eileen Fisher and Reformation, which are apparel brands known for valuing sustainable efforts, are among the supporters of the bill. 

Currently, the bill remains under review by the New York State Senate and General Assembly committees and will require the committees’, houses’ and governor’s approval prior to becoming a law.

While legislation for fashion sustainability shows growth, the laws’ effects are limited to a specific state. 

With more proposed environmental and worker protection legislation emerging in states, lawmakers begin creating a consistent methodology to identify unethical brands and create pathways to federal and global regulations.

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