Biaggi introduces fashion sustainability legislation, seeks to hold NY fashion industry accountable

State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi recently unveiled legislation that would hold the fashion industry accountable for its impact on people and the planet.
Photo courtesy NY Senate Media Services

A piece of legislation that would make New York a global leader in holding the fashion industry accountable for its impact on the planet was introduced last month by a Bronx state senator.

On Jan. 7, state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, a Progressive from Pelham, was joined by Assemblywoman Anna Kelles, New Standard Institute, climate activists and members of the fashion industry for a virtual press conference to introduce the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act.

According to language in the bill, it would be the first in the nation to require fashion retail sellers and manufacturers to disclose environmental and social due diligence policies and establish a community benefit fund for the purpose of implementing one or more environmental benefit projects that directly and verifiably benefit environmental justice communities.

“For far too long the fashion industry has worked in a little black box with far too little accountability,” Biaggi said. “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.”

Under the bill, all apparel and footwear retailers and manufacturers with global annual receipts of at least $100 million doing business in New York would be required to map their supply chains, disclose environmental and social impacts and set binding targets to reduce those impacts. Companies will also be required to disclose their material use, by material type and the wages of workers. Noncompliant companies will be required to pay fines, the revenue of which will fund projects specifically for New York’s environmental justice communities.

The bill is supported by the Act on Fashion Coalition, which includes New Standard Institute, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Environmental Advocates New York, New York Communities for Change and several other organizations.

A backer of the bill, Maxine Bédat, said the fashion industry has a big carbon footprint and accounted for 4% of the greenhouse gas emissions in 2018 — the U.S. emitted 11% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Bédat, director of the New Standard Institute, said that by holding fashion companies to these standards, will help bring the country in line with the Paris Agreement, which was signed in 2015, by 196 countries, with a goal to limit global warming.

“We need to know which companies are serious about building fashion future,” she said. “New Yorkers have a powerful role to play in ensuring industries are practicing ethical standards in labor and environmental sustainability while at the same time ensuring a thriving local industry.”

Another supporter of the bill, Gabrielle Ferrara, chief operating officer of Ferrara Manufacturing, said if the legislation is approved it will help bring the fashion industry into the 21st century. She said making profits should not be the only thing people in fashion are concerned about.

They need to be a part of making this world a safer and environmentally cleaner place, she said.

Actress Rosario Dawson also voiced her support for the bill.

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