Unpacking Policy at Global Fashion Summit: Boston Edition 2023

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In the recently concluded Global Fashion Summit: Boston Edition 2023, we reflected on the theme ‘Ambition to Action’ to spearhead the transition to a net-positive fashion industry. In the ‘Unpacking Policy’ session, we pulled back the curtain on how policy is evolving in the US, with a focus on the regional exchange between Europe. As rising pressure is placed on policy implementation, we explored the questions at the crux of the conversation: how is fashion regulation shaping up – and what might be missing?


Explore some of the takeaways from the session below.

Catalysing Systemic Change: The Evolving Landscape of Fashion Policy

The fashion industry has transitioned from being a relatively unregulated sector to facing a growing wave of policy initiatives. The shift from voluntary actions to legal obligations has the potential to drive systemic transformation and create a more equitable playing field for all industry players. However, the success of fashion policy hinges on recognising and normalising the challenges unique to the industry. This acknowledgement is essential to ensure that policymakers and stakeholders exercise patience and offer support during this transitional phase.

Maxine Bédat Director, New Standard Institute
"It's important to recognise that newly regulated industries often face challenges and messy processes. Perfection should not be the expectation"

A Comprehensive Approach to Fashion Policy

Fashion policy should extend beyond climate initiatives. It must encompass labour rights, fair wages, and transparent sustainability communication. Policies should not happen at the margins but really get to the heart of the areas of impact, working in partnership with all stakeholders impacted. This is paramount when we discuss the scope, purpose, execution, and impact of legislation. Incentives like the ones granted to other sectors like renewable energies or transport can also drive circular practices within the industry.

GFA’s Fashion CEO Agenda 2023 outlines the most pressing issues and the biggest opportunities for environmental and social impact. Download the publication here.

Maxine Bédat Director, New Standard Institute
"The industry has a powerful and important role to step into those
Conversations, to make sure that the policies are not happening at the margins but are really getting to the heart of the areas of impact and working in partnership with the rest, with the stakeholders that are impacted, to really move progress forward in a meaningful and measurable way."

Inclusivity and Environmental Justice

Fashion sustainability must centre on inclusivity and environmental justice. Voices of historically marginalised communities — such as those of Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples — should be central in decision-making. An ethnographic approach can offer valuable insights into these communities’ specific challenges. Our strategies along the path to a net-positive industry must prioritise solutions that are rooted in inclusive dialogue.

Dominique Drakeford Sustainable Justice Educator & Content Creator
"Black and POC and Indigenous communities have been on the frontlines of environmental justice. I hope we understand that this fight for equitable fashion is under the guise of sustainable justice. Right now, we must prioritise our thinking and come up with circular strategies that are rooted in Black, Brown, and Indigenous thought."
Chelsea Murtha Director of Sustainability at the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA)
"Stakeholders have expressed their frustrations about policy development, feeling left out of the consultation process."

State Leadership and Federal Coalitions

Rather than thinking of federal legislation as the “A team” and state legislation as the “B team,” it is important to understand that the states will lead the way by gathering the right people in the room — and hopefully creating coalitions that exist beyond policy getting passed in the states.

Rachel Kibbe Executive Director, American Circular Textiles
"States can take the lead by assembling the right stakeholders in discussions about circularity policy, with the aim of creating enduring coalitions that extend beyond the mere passage of policy."

Legislative Complexities and Expertise Gaps

The fashion industry grapples with tracking legislation at federal and state levels, exacerbated by a shortage of industry professionals educated in public affairs. Policymakers must invest in understanding the intricacies of fashion and bridge the expertise gap. This also emphasises the need for industry and advocacy input in policymaking.

Randi Marshall Head of Government & Public Affairs, Americas, H&M Group
"We're talking about an industry that is new when it comes to regulation. So, we're going to grow our public policy chops. We're going to have more people who are going to be more knowledgeable with the processes and what's going on, not only here in the US."

Evolving Legislative Landscape in the US

The US is not far behind the EU in legislation — while the EU is ahead in the thinking, the US is more advanced in “bill language” emphasised Maxine Bédat. Also, fashion has a global reach, and policy developments will take shape depending on specific legislative processes. As fashion’s legislative landscape rapidly evolves, we must account for these differences while pushing for harmonisation and collaboration.

Randi Marshall Head of Government & Public Affairs, Americas, H&M Group
"This is an industry that has global reach not only because everyone wears clothes, but also, our supply chains are everywhere.

The ‘Unpacking Policy’ session highlights the power and necessity of collaborative discourse on the path to a net-positive fashion industry. Convening stakeholder groups across areas of diverse expertise will strengthen our collective mission to translate fashion’s global impact into a force for good.

You can explore Global Fashion Agenda’s evolving policy and advocacy work here.

Our recent publication, GFA Policy Matrix: Americas, provides a non-exhaustive summary of the most relevant regulations that reflect the five main priorities outlined in GFA’s Fashion CEO Agenda.

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