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2022 could be the year that fashion’s superpower brands reevaluate their retail footprints and prioritize environmental and social advancement. This may force the industry to accept responsibility for its actions. Unsustainable fashion practices will be subject to legal and financial sanctions by governments that monitor how fashion businesses operate.

Digital scrutiny

In 2022, new European rules will be in effect that offer consumers protection when they make online purchases. These rules are based on the fact that consumers shop online more often than ever before and that digital elements are becoming more common in products and services. This ‘legal guarantee” will also apply to products that have a digital element such as content and services.

Due diligence is required for human rights, good governance, and environmental protection

The EU’s directive on corporate accountability and due diligence was published last March. If fashion brands cause harm through insufficient due diligence in their supply chain, such as ensuring that no child labour is used, fair wages are paid, and the environment are protected, penalties will be imposed.

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets launched an investigation into 70 clothing companies in May. These companies were under investigation for misleadingly claiming that their products are sustainable. This is also known as greenwashing. Fines of up to 900,000.00 euros were imposed on companies found in violation of competition watchdog rules. A percentage of company revenue was also imposed upon those who were found guilty.

Stop greenwashing

woman in blue shirt holding white paper

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, (CMA), created the Green Claims Code in October. It outlines 6 key points that can be used to determine if claims about environmental issues are true green. Sometimes called “environmental claims” or “eco-friendly claims”, green claims are those that claim that a product, service or brand provides an environmental benefit or is less harmful than the environment.

Green claims are often used by businesses to market their products and services. However, sometimes greenwashing is employed.

The French parliament approved a law in July to allow garments to be labeled with ‘carbon labels. This law is intended to provide information to consumers about the environmental consequences of their buying decisions. France’s ‘anti-waste law’ also prohibited companies from disposing of leftover stock last year.

The Garment Workers Protection Act (GWPA), which was strengthened in October in the US, ensures that retailers can’t use layers of contracting to avoid liability. It also bans retailers from paying garment workers per “piece”, eliminating an important obstacle to minimum wage workers and protecting their safety and health.

According to the GWPA’s website, “No industry is more rife in employment violations than that of the garment industry. Los Angeles is home to the nation’s highest concentration of workers in the garment industry. Some 2,000 factories are located to the east and south of downtown. They employ over 40,000 people, mostly immigrants, who spend 10-12 hours per day sewing, cutting and dyeing clothes, from designer jeans to knockoffs on the runway.”

Consumers more conscious

Global laws reflect a shift in consciousness and consumer consumption. A growing awareness of the environmental impact of garment production is influencing how businesses operate, communicate, and sell their products.

McKinsey’s 2022 State of Fashion report notes that consumers want to know the origins of materials, how they are made and if people are treated fairly. More companies are increasing their sustainability assortments and working to improve their supply chain sustainability.

“The bottom line is that 2022 will be a challenging year for the fashion industry. There are many opportunities and challenges, so there is no room to make mistakes. The demands of digital, sustainability and the supply chain are all on the minds of decision makers.”