In 2022, these are the sustainable fashion policies you should know about
by Amelia Zimmerman | Oct 18, 2022
With conscious consumerism on the rise, marketing fashion products as ‘sustainable’ or ‘good for the planet’ has become a go-to tactic for many major apparel brands. But regulation around ESG and sustainability claims is still nascent, which has left the industry struggling to catch up with the sustainability claims being made by brands. But as more brands come under scrutiny for making misleading sustainability claims, the need for proper legislation around greenwashing is greater than ever.
In this article, we’ll explore key regulatory and policy updates in the sustainable fashion industry, and their potential impact on consumers, brands, and the global fashion landscape as a whole.
2026 EU Regulations
In 2022, one of the biggest updates in sustainable fashion regulation is the EU’s proposed 2026 Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles. The strategy is designed to ensure that textiles are made in ways that don’t harm people or the planet, last longer, and are disposed of appropriately. Through a series of measures, the strategy will help consumers make more educated choices, and encourage fashion brands to reduce their environmental impact and social burden.
Consumption and durability
The European Commission claims that this strategy will help the EU shift to a “climate-neutral, circular economy where products are designed to be more durable, reusable, repairable, recyclable, and energy-efficient.”
Fashion brands will need to disclose the life cycles of their products and educate consumers about product durability and disposal. Both companies and consumers will be encouraged to repair, recycle and reuse clothing and footwear. Brands in particular are being called on to reduce the frequency of product releases (the ‘fast fashion’ cycle), with the aim of reducing overproduction and overconsumption.
Greenwashing and transparency
The regulations will effectively ban greenwashing, preventing brands from making misleading claims (particularly vague claims, or claims about the product as a whole when not relevant to the entire product) about the sustainability of their products. Companies will need to source third-party verification for any sustainability claims or labels and include recyclability and environmental impact data on product labels.
These changes will help consumers make more environmentally-informed buying choices, and ensure that brands are making verified claims about their products. It will also bring sustainability to the forefront of every product, rather than limiting ‘sustainability’ to certain product lines or sections of the market.
New York Fashion Act
In January 2022, New York State presented a new legislation to bring accountability and transparency to the fashion industry: the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act (also known as Assembly Bill A8352, or the Fashion Act — we’ll stick to the latter).
The Fashion Act comes in the wake of H&M’s 2021 New York lawsuit for greenwashing, and it aims to hold fashion brands responsible for the role they play in climate change and global human rights concerns. It will require apparel and footwear brands who do business in the state of New York, and earn more than $100 million in revenue worldwide to disclose their policies around environmental and social due diligence.
Companies will need to map at least 50% of their supply chains, and share material production volumes, as well as highlighting the areas of their supply chain that pose the biggest risks around:
- Greenhouse gas emissions
- Energy usage
- Water usage
- Material and plastic usage
- Chemical management
- Fair wages
Affected brands would need to comply with mapping mandates within one year, and disclosure mandates within 18 month. Brands will also be required to set and achieve Science-Based Targets, which are environmental performance goals aligned with the 1.5°C warming limit outlined under the Paris Agreement. Finally, brands will need to conduct compulsory due diligence across their supply chains, and disclose the environmental and social risks and impacts of their operations.
Should a brand fail to comply with the act, it will face fines equaling 2% of annual revenue, with funds being allocated to environmental justice groups such as UPROSE.
Despite the size and speed of the fast fashion industry, the Fashion Act would be one of the first laws that specifically targets the social and environmental impact of fashion companies. The bill is still in the proposal stage, but it has received support from designer Stella McCartney, and a coalition of relevant nonprofits that includes the Natural Resources Defense Council, the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, and the New Standard Institute.
Although this bill will bring much-needed change to the way large fashion brands share information about their product impact, it’s also a major step forward for climate action. Disclosure and transparency is one thing, but requiring brands to set and achieve science-based targets is an enormous step in the right direction for the fashion industry. For most of the global fashion industry, setting and working towards environmental goals has, to date, been voluntary. And although voluntary commitments (such as the Better Cotton Initiative and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition) are a positive move, on their own, they are not enough to curb the significant impact the fashion industry has on climate change and social issues.
A final word on sustainable fashion regulation
It is often said that sunlight is the best disinfectant. And for the sustainable fashion industry, this might just be the case. While other industries like food or finance have long had regulations in place designed to educate and protect consumers, fashion is lagging behind.
But with major fashion brands coming under scrutiny for greenwashing, and the positive initiative from the likes of the EU Commission, the New York State Attorney General, and other industry regulatory bodies around the world, it seems the industry is headed in the right direction.
Preparing for sustainable fashion regulations
For apparel brands, more regulation can seem like bad news. But although brands will need to prepare themselves to comply with upcoming policy changes, it’s important to keep the big picture in mind: as a whole, regulations and improved transparency is a positive step for the global fashion industry.
Although apparel brands will be given adequate time to comply with disclosure and target-setting requirements, smart brands are starting to collect data, map supply chains, and improve their environmental and social impact today.
Green Story can help
At Green Story, our mission is to empower 1 billion consumers to know their impact and make choices that are better for the planet and the generations to come. We’ll help you quantify and visualize your environmental impact, make accurate claims about the sustainability of your products, and offset your emissions through verified carbon credits. We’ll also make sure your customers are along for the journey by telling your sustainability story in ways your consumers can easily grasp, integrating your story into every aspect of your communications, and achieving market-wide buy-in for your sustainability mission.
About Amelia Zimmerman
Amelia Zimmerman is an ESG and sustainability writer. She lives in Toronto with her puppy and her partner, and she is passionate about using storytelling techniques to help people understand and act on climate change.