Transparency is a fundamental quality of sustainable fashion. It is what guarantees consumers that the product they are purchasing is in fact eco-friendly and ethically made. And it is also the course of action for brands to come clean about their supply chains, materials, workforce, manufacturing processes, and so on.
Nonetheless, the reality doesn’t look as good as the theory. Although there are brands that are actually changing the panorama with innovative eco-friendly practices, this does not apply for the majority of them.
Environmental and social claims made by fashion brands are not enough: there needs to be regulations and legislations that can support, control and supervise them. Moreover, legislation is meant to encourage and demand brands that are not sustainable to pursue this path in benefit of our planet and all of us.
In other words, if governments do not step in to establish what is sustainable and what is not, greenwashing campaigns are given free rein. These statutes and laws can avoid consumer confusion caused by misleading and false claims. For instance, it is just a matter of seeing how freely expressions like “green”, “natural” or “clean” are used without real sustenance to back them up.
Green Claims Code (UK)
From the beginning of 2022, the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority (or CMA) started investigating different industries for cases of greenwashing. This is the same institution that estimated that about 40% of sustainability marketing claims that are made nowadays are false.
Anticipating this new chapter, last year they released 一in collaboration with The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM)一 the new Green Claims Code, which aims to help local businesses understand and comply with the current consumer protection laws.
These are six fundamental propositions that companies from all kinds of sectors, including the textile and fashion industry, should have in consideration when making environmental claims regarding their products.
Sustainability and Social Accountability Act (New York)
The Sustainability and Social Accountability Act has been unveiled only three months ago, but it has given much to talk about. Although the law has yet to be signed, it would make New York a pioneering state in the U.S. in relation to environmental regulations.
This bill will require fashion companies to “hold the biggest brands in fashion to account for their role in climate change”. Also referred to as the Fashion Act, it will require these brands to publicly share their environmental and social impacts.
They would need to come clean on how much they are paying their garment workers, how much they produce and what percentage they recycle. As well, they would need to map at least half their supply chain and publish their greenhouse gas, water and chemical impact. A major step forward addressing the traceability issue that the industry faces.
In addition, the Sustainability and Social Accountability Act requires them to set and meet science-based targets in order to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, including scope 3 emissions.
For more information on this, we recommend you to read Scope 3 Emission - What does it mean for apparel brands?
And there is more. New York’s new bill would not only affect brands that have their headquarters within the state, but it also encompasses all labels that sell their products in New York and earn more than USD$100 million worldwide. Definitely, a game-changing legislation for the US and all countries in general.
On a similar note, the state of California signed the California Garment Worker’s Act in September last year. It aims to put a stop to unfair and inhumane working conditions, including issues related to living wages (a popular issue for the fashion industry on a global level).
Anti-Waste and Circular Economy Law (France)
[Text Wrapping Break]The textile and fashion industry not only faces environmental and social issues regarding the manufacturing of its products, but also problems regarding the post-consumer stage.
In the current worldwide scenario, there’s one country that is leading the way on anti-waste and anti-burning legislation: France. The European country has instituted that as of January 1st 2022, it is illegal for companies to destroy their unsold items. This law applies to the food industry, as well as to the cosmetics, linen, clothing and footwear companies that sell their products in the French market.
France aims to promote a circular economy and address the local waste crisis. In simpler words, as of this year, fashion brands won’t longer be able to burn their leftover stock and textile waste, nor take it to landfills. What are the possible solutions?
Companies will have to either recycle it themselves or donate it. If they are unable or fail to implement an in-house program like such, they can pay ReFashion. It is a French ONG in charge of collecting, sorting and recycling brand’s clothing and accessories once their lifecycle comes to an end.
This directive goes by the name of EPR and stands for “Extended Producer Responsibility” for textiles and clothing. In addition, it holds both brands and manufacturers responsible for the products' life. This bill goes shoulder to shoulder with France’s carbon law, which ordains that all garments and textiles should have a label informing consumers about the environmental impact of their purchases.
Following the same path are Sweden 一which was the second country in the European Union to adopt this law一 and the Netherlands. Bulgaria, Catalonia and the UK have also stated that they will jump on board as of next year.
“Green button” Label Law (Germany)
German law still has work to do regarding farming and the processing of textiles, for example. Yet it has already implemented a “green button” law that requires textile and apparel companies to meet at least 26 social and environmental standards, including traceability points, to label themselves as sustainable.
In similar news, you can check out our article Waste Not, Want Not: How To Sustainably Recycle Or Reuse Clothing Items for more insights on this matter.
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