Introduced in October by New York State policymakers Sen. Alessandra Biaggi and Assembly Member Anna Kelles, the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act (S7428 / A08352) seeks to create a more sustainable fashion industry. Starting with New York, the bill seeks to ensure multinational fashion players — with $100 million in global revenue — abide by defined environmental and social responsibility criteria.
The bill is undergoing amendments as industry players seek tighter engagement. In the meantime, a number of events and rallies have occurred in the past week.
While the Act on Fashion Coalition already includes the likes of the New Standard Institute, Stella McCartney, Amber Valletta, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), the South Asian Fund for Education Scholarship and Training (SAFEST) and more, Hollywood’s newest supporters weighed in on the issue.
Pledging her support, Jane Fonda (who is no stranger to climate protest) underlined the gaps between ambitious progress and greenwashing. “As a climate activist, I want to support the efforts to push major apparel and footwear brands to do what is needed to bring fashion in line with what climate science is saying: We must stop polluting the environment, cutting down forests, despoiling our oceans and creating forever waste,” she commented.
Citing how fashion emits as much carbon as the U.K., France and Germany combined (per McKinsey’s “Fashion on Climate” report), Fonda added, “This is untenable and yet the industry faces no regulations and is free to exploit the least protected regions of the world. Wherever you are, whoever you are, please sign onto the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act. We’ll need everyone on board to get this act passed.”
Rosario Dawson, a native New Yorker with a considerable platform for community activism, commented: “Fashion is one of the least regulated industries globally. It is a major polluter and a leading industry of modern-day slavery. We need to stop the race to the bottom and #ActOnFashion.”
Model and Paul Walker Foundation founder Meadow Walker, as well as actresses like Shailene Woodley, Nikki Reed, Andie MacDowell and Zooey Deschanel, are also among the star power.
At a panel held Tuesday at the New York Edition Hotel by the Act on Fashion Coalition, Walker said: “As I’ve grown and come into the fashion industry, it’s really devastating [to see] what’s happening and to see how corrupt fashion is, in a way.”
“Part of the reason the industry has been allowed to be as it is because the industry has, let me make up a word, ‘invisibilized’ people,” Ngozi Okaro, the founder and executive director of Custom Collaborative, a New York City-based workforce development enterprise geared toward women from low-income and immigrant communities, said at the event. “So, the women in our programs, people don’t see.”
The coalition urges citizens to visit Thefashionact.org for more information on the bill. In the rush of the bill’s awareness since New York State’s legislative season kicked off in January, some industry stakeholders were blindsided.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America and the American Apparel and Footwear Association released a joint statement last month: “The apparel and footwear industry has a strong commitment to sustainability and social responsibility within its supply chains. The work of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, U.N. Global Compact, Apparel Impact Institute, Global Fashion Agenda, Better Buying Initiative, AAFA’s Commitment to Responsible Recruitment and CFDA’s sustainability work have transformed the industry’s supply chains from what they were decades ago.
“That said, more needs to be done, and that is why AAFA and CFDA are aligned in meeting the 2030 and 2050 climate targets of the Paris Agreement and why we support the United Nations Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action.”
The statement further acknowledged, “As industry organizations, we were not involved in the drafting of the bill, nor are we aware of any companies who were consulted. We are currently taking time to understand the bill and look forward to speaking with its authors to provide our input and share our perspectives.”