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The State of Fashion 2022 report states that sustainability will play a big role in how brands handle their operations in the new year. Besides consumer pressure, increased government regulation could finally reign in the more unsustainable habits of the fashion industry.
In March of this year, the European Parliament paved the way for a new EU law that requires companies to tackle human rights and environmental standards within their supply chains. This initiative applies to companies operating both inside and outside the EU market. Corporations can be sanctioned for non-compliance and are required to provide legal support for victims in case of incidence. There is also a ban on the import of products linked to severe human rights violations such as child labor.
In May, the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets launched investigations into approximately 70 companies in the clothing sector. These companies were being investigated for making misleading marketing claims about the sustainability of their products, otherwise known as greenwashing. For the ones that were found guilty of the competition watchdog’s rules, they were fined up to €900,000 or a proportion of company revenue.
As part of France’s new climate bill passed in July, a “carbon label” is to be included on garments and textiles to help inform consumers about the environmental impact of their purchases. And in Germany, the new “green button” label law passed also in the same month requires companies including in the textile industry to meet a minimum of 26 social and environmental standards, ranging from supporting labor rights to testing for chemical residues.
And as the fashion industry pioneers towards a more circular economy, the EU is driving efforts to reduce waste and encourage recycling. By 2025, all EU municipalities will have textiles collection systems in place with France already requiring clothing producers and retailers to pay for clothes to be collected, sorted and recycled. With this concerted effort, the EU’s plans for a standardized practice could encourage potential incentives and lower textile collection costs for brands with smaller environmental footprints.
Similar to the Netherlands, the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority published a Green Claims Code to help businesses understand and comply with their existing obligations when making environmental claims. The Code is also aimed at protecting consumers from misleading sustainability claims in relation to a company’s products or services, particularly concerning companies involved in textiles and fashion.
The UK government also unveiled plans to hold manufacturers accountable for textile waste. The plans form part of the Waste Prevention Programme for England which outlines how the government can take action across seven key sectors including textiles. This programme would ensure businesses in the industry contribute to the costs of recycling, boost reused garments and better collections, drive the use of sustainable fibers and support business models such as rental schemes.
Los Angeles is considered the center of garment manufacturing in the United States with an estimated 40,000 people making clothing for fashion retailers. However, under this system, workers are paid per piece they construct, often meaning they earn less than half of California’s minimum wage. But in September of this year, California governor Gavin Newsom signed into law the Garment Worker Protection Act, which is expected to take effect in the very beginning of 2022.
The law would eliminate the piece rate system and ensure workers are paid an hourly minimum wage. The bill also expands on the criteria of who is liable for stolen wages. This essentially means fashion retailers would be held accountable for paying out wage theft claims filed by workers who make clothing in their factories. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, inequities in California’s economy have exposed a system designed to encourage rapid production while exploiting workers, mainly immigrants and women of color. This bill not only signals progress for the rights of garment workers in one of the nation’s largest cities but also may influence further legislation for the fashion industry in the country.
Read more about the laws and pacts of last year that changed the future of fashion here.