The year fashion finally faced its social impact


Social impact also took a more prominent role in brand impact reports. Gucci’s report was released in tandem with a commitment to disability inclusion. Nordstrom’s report highlighted its charitable donations ($3.6 million to nonprofits, more than 40,000 pairs of shoes donated to children in need through Shoes That Fit, and 145 Black and Latinx-owned brands added to its assortment). Resale platform Thredup included employee health and wellbeing, and diversity, equity and inclusion in its inaugural impact report. However, metrics differ between reports, and experts say there is still no sufficient way to measure social impact. One potential solution to this came from Richemont-owned Chloé in February, which introduced its Social Performance & Leverage toolevaluating suppliers’ performance on six key indicators: gender equality, living wage, diversity and inclusion, training, wellbeing and job quality.

There’s plenty more work to be done, experts say. Looking ahead to 2023, brands should prioritise human rights in the supply chain, diversity and inclusion in the head office, and put social and environmental impact on a level playing field, with both influencing all sustainability decisions.

“We need to show inspiring stories of social justice,” says Safia Minney, social entrepreneur, author and founder of Global Village and People Tree. “We need much more holistic systems thinking.”

Garment worker rights backed by legislation

Momentum for legislation that protects garment workers has been gathering since 2021, when California brought Senate Bill 62 into play (guaranteeing a minimum wage for garment workers and holding brands accountable, even for violations with third-party partners); and the Bangladesh Accord, the legally binding agreement that was formed after the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013 and was set to expire in 2021, was renewed and expanded. The new version, called the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry, has nearly 200 brand signatories and just last week was expanded to Pakistan, with other countries potentially to follow.

The US continued this trend in 2022. In January, a New York coalition led by state senator Alessandra Biaggi alongside Stella McCartney among others put forward the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Acthoping to hold major brands accountable for their environmental and social impacts. Among its proposals, brands would need to disclose median wages for workers and what measures are in place to embed responsible business conduct into policies and management systems, with hefty fines for non-compliance. After a months-long consultation process, the proposal re-emerged in November with a sharpened focus. This included joint and several liability (a legal term for a responsibility that is shared by two or more parties to a lawsuit) between fashion sellers and garment workers, meaning garment workers can bring a legal claim directly to brands for lost wages. Supporters are hoping it will pass in the 2023 legislative session.


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