New York Could Make History With a Fashion Sustainability Act
The state would be the first to pass legislation setting broad sustainability regulations for the industry.
Last September, as New York Fashion Week
was taking place for the first time in a year, Kathy Hochul
, the new governor, sat front row at the Prabal Gurung show, marking a fresh era in the relationship of the fashion industry and the state government. “This is where all the eyes of the world are when it comes to fashion,” she later told Vogue
Just four months later, the eyes of the world may open a little wider. On Friday, the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act
(or Fashion Act) was unveiled: a bill that, if passed, would make New York the first state in the country to pass legislation that will effectively hold the biggest brands in fashion to account for their role in climate change.
Sponsored by State Senator Alessandra Biaggi and Assemblywoman Anna R. Kelles, and backed by a powerful coalition of nonprofits focused on fashion and sustainability, 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, the law will apply to global apparel and footwear companies, with more than $100 million in revenues, doing business in New York.
That is pretty much every large multinational fashion name, ranging from the very highest end — LVMH, Prada, Armani — to such fast-fashion giants as Shein and Boohoo.
Specifically, it would require such companies to map a minimum of 50 percent of their supply chain, starting with the farms where the raw materials originate through factories and shipping. They would then be required to disclose where in that chain they have the greatest social and environmental impact when it comes to fair wages, energy, greenhouse gas emissions, water and chemical management, and make concrete plans to reduce those numbers (when it comes to carbon emissions, specifically in accordance with the targets set by the Paris Climate Accords
Finally, it would require companies to disclose their material production volumes to reveal, for example, how much cotton or leather or polyester they sell. All of that information would also have to be made available online.
“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,” Ms. Biaggi said in a news release, calling the law “a groundbreaking piece of legislation that will make New York the global leader” in holding the fashion industry “accountable.” She also said that the act would ensure that “labor, human rights, and environmental protections are prioritized.” (Read More on The New York Times
Designing a circular fashion system that works for all
The fashion industry is transforming from linear to more circular business models — including repair, recycling, resale and rental — while simultaneously being shaped by macro forces, such as automation and climate disruption.
This transition brings both an opportunity to proactively address the industry’s long-standing labor concerns by designing new business models and a responsibility to ensure that the new jobs created are good jobs.
The significant momentum behind circularity begs the question for both industry and policymakers: How can we leverage this transformation to reimagine and rebuild the global fashion system so that it works for all?
Through Keeping Workers in the Loop (KWIL)
, we convened over 45 major fashion industry players — established brands, emerging circular businesses, worker representatives, sustainable fashion experts and international institutions — to explore this very question.
Our research uncovered three key findings:
1. As business models change, circularity offers an important opportunity for entrepreneurship and upskilling
Growth and investment in circular fashion signal the significant commercial potential in transforming the fashion industry. For example, just four luxury resale platforms attracted over $134 million
in total investment in the 16 months to August. Businesses that offer recycling services, repair, rental or resale platforms are emerging quickly and growing rapidly.
As major legacy businesses seek to adapt, circularity can also provide economic and entrepreneurship opportunities for workers. Our research, in which we surveyed almost 200 workers, suggests significant appetite to engage in and start new circular businesses. In India, 66 percent of workers surveyed, and particularly women, are keen to start their own businesses but feel constrained by lack of investment and business skills. Workers already possess much of the knowledge needed to successfully navigate the transition. For example, informal waste workers understand how garment and textile waste is segregated, processed and reentered into the marketplace.
Jobs in the circular economy require soft skills
such as agility, language and business skills, and technical competencies (garment deconstruction). Our research found that both skills (broadly) and training are lacking at all levels of the industry. Equipping diverse groups of workers with the necessary skills and entrepreneurship opportunities can accelerate the creation of a circular and resilient fashion value chain. (Read More on Green Biz.com
The fashion industry moving towards a circular economy
Do you turn old t-shirts into rags to shake off? Do you try to donate or give away clothes that you no longer fit or that you used only once? You also don’t have prejudices to rent an evening dress or a suit, or even, have you already become a fan of the new second-use stores? Congratulations, you are ready to participate in the circular economy of fashion.
In recent years, the amount of natural and human resources used by the fast fashion industry, those relatively cheap fashion clothes that are designed to last only one season and then be thrown away.
The large chains in this segment expanded worldwide in the last 20 years and contributed to an increase in the production of garments, but also led to a greater generation of waste.
Read also: Circular economy, the “coup de grace” for scavengers
According to the study Circular Business Models, of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, between 2000 and 2015 the production of clothing doubled, while the period of use of a garment before throwing it away fell 36%.
This caused the fashion industry to generate 2.1 billion tons of greenhouse gases in 2018, that is, 4% of total emissions worldwide.
It is estimated that 70% of gas emissions from greenhouse effect of the fashion industry come from onshore activities, such as sourcing textiles and clothing preparation and processing, for which new ways are urgently needed to de-link fashion industry revenue from the mass production process and the use of natural resources.
In addition, due to low garment prices and economic losses caused by excess inventory, shortages and returns, the profit margins of clothing manufacturers decreased an average of 40% from 2016 to 2019.
This situation was exacerbated in 2020 by the pandemic, since it highlighted the fragility of fast fashion supply chains, since most assembly plants in Asian countries at low cost and their profits collapsed 90% compared to 2019. (Read More on CodeList
Ambercycle Raises $21.6 Million to Build Circularity Ecosystem in the Fashion Industry
Materials science company Ambercycle Inc.
announced today the closing of an oversubscribed $21.6 million Series A financing from H&M CO:LAB, KIRKBI, Temasek, BESTSELLER’s Invest FWD, and Zalando. With this new funding, Ambercycle has raised a total of $27 million in order to develop infrastructure and materials for circularity within the fashion industry.
Environmental and governmental agencies estimate that over 120 billion garments are discarded annually. Ambercycle was founded in 2015 by Shay Sethi and Moby Ahmed with the goal of building circularity for the fashion industry. The company’s breakthrough process, Ambercycling™, separates and purifies post-consumer textile waste at the molecular level to produce regenerated materials that brands and designers can craft into new garments. This simultaneously reduces the materials going into landfills as well as the need to extract finite resources from the planet.
The company’s first solution, cycora®
, is a breakthrough material that makes use of old garments by regenerating end-of-life textile waste into new fabrics. cycora® serves as a direct replacement to the tens of billions of pounds of polyester used annually, and emulates the functional characteristics of these conventional fabrics while allowing apparel brands and designers to produce high quality garments with circularity in mind.
“The transition to circularity in fashion is inevitable” said Shay Sethi, Co-Founder and CEO of Ambercycle. “We are building an ecosystem in which materials can exist in harmony with humans and the environment. Our breakthrough molecular regeneration process enables a clear vision for circularity, in which fashion can flow in and out of our lives. Not only will this improve the sustainability performance of the items in our closets, but it builds a new way for us to interact with our materials.” (Read More on Waste360