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Footwear legislation – the future?

Concluding this series of articles on key legislation affecting the footwear and leather industries with a consideration of new laws that may soon be enacted.

by Nicola Pichel-Juan

Image © Duncan_Andison |

Across this series of articles, SATRA has provided an overview on existing sustainability-related legislation in the areas of i) end-of-life responsibility, ii) labelling and communication, iii) reporting and transparency, and iv) restricted substances. In terms of what the future looks like, it is only going to go in one direction – there will be more legislation, the requirements will become increasingly stringent and more and more organisations will be directly impacted.

This will compel organisations to reduce their own impacts and those of their products, taking into account the entire end-to-end supply chain as well as the complete product lifecycle. The organisations involved will need to have a deeper understanding of their supply chains and be more transparent about their activities. All of this will ultimately enable consumers to make sustainable choices with confidence.

The proposed ‘New York Fashion Act’ has been attracting considerable attention. At the time of writing, an amended version of the bill was being drafted to be put before the New York State Senate. While the proposed bill would only directly affect apparel or footwear companies trading in New York with an annual global revenue of at least USD 100 million, its impact would be felt throughout the supply chain. Companies would be obliged to map and disclose their supply chains – including raw material suppliers. While there has been a definite shift, with many brands and retailers looking to get much better visibility of second-tier suppliers, it is likely to still prove challenging to understand the source of all materials and components going into every product.

Once the supply chain has been understood and its details have been clearly mapped out, the Act then proposes that organisations should work to identify, prevent and remediate against both actual and potential adverse impacts to human rights and the environment throughout their own operation and the supply chain. This would be achieved through the following:

It is suggested that companies which are found to be not complying and which do not take sufficient remediation action within three months may be fined up to 2 per cent of annual revenues, with the money raised being used to fund projects for the benefit of workers and communities which have been directly affected by any transgressions.

What are the Paris Agreement and Science-Based Targets?

The Paris Agreement was signed in 2015 by 200 countries at COP21 in Paris. It was a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to keep global warming this century to below 2°C (and ideally below 1.5°C) above pre-industrial levels.

Science-Based Targets are objectives to reduce emissions, in line with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Although any organisation can independently set its own targets to reduce emissions, Science-Based Targets are generally seen as the ‘gold standard’. As such, many organisations will opt to have their targets validated by the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), This scheme requires that targets cover 100 per cent of Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions and 67 per cent of mandatory Scope 3 emissions.

Meanwhile in California

Also in North America, the State of California (which often leads in terms of environmental legislation) has proposed a ‘Responsible Textile Recovery Act’, which includes footwear in its list of items to be covered. The average US consumer now discards more than 36 kg of textile waste each year – an increase of 55 per cent since 2000 – and this now accounts for the fastest-growing source of waste going to landfill in California.

The Act aims to divert this waste from landfill to allow the fibres to be recovered and repurposed into new products. If this becomes law, textile producers and other stakeholders in the supply chain responsible for placing goods onto the Californian market will have to develop an end-to-end system to support the repair and recycling of all products covered by the legislation.

European plans

The European Union also has significant plans for further sustainability-related legislation, starting with the ‘Green Directive’, a proposal for which was published in March 2023. If, as expected, it is approved, this legislation could be implemented later this year (2023).

The directive is similar to the UK’s ‘Green Claims Code’ in that it aims to tackle false environmental claims and greenwashing. A 2020 study commissioned by the EU found that 53.3 per cent of environmental claims provided vague, misleading or unfounded information, and that 40 per cent of claims were unsubstantiated.

However, the Green Directive also goes further than the UK legislation by aiming to limit the proliferation of environmental labelling schemes by setting minimum standards for any new schemes. It is estimated that there are more than 200 environmental labels already in use across the EU, covering various different aspects of finished goods, materials and their supply chains. While many schemes will have strict criteria for demonstrating compliance, others may only require self-certification. The directive will create a more level playing field, which will allow consumers to have confidence that any claims being made have been validated.

The EU also has an overarching ‘Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles’ that aims to significantly reduce the impact of textile products by 2030. This will include mandatory eco-design requirements for durability, repairability and recyclability of items, as well as the elimination of hazardous substances. It also aims to ensure that items are manufactured respecting the social rights of workers in the supply chain. 

AdrianHancu |

Some legislation will include requirements for durability, repairability and recyclability of items, as well as the elimination of hazardous substances

The destruction of any unsold or returned items will no longer be permitted, and there will be restrictions on the export of textile waste. There will also be measures designed specifically to tackle pollution caused by the unintended release of microplastics. In addition, it is proposed that digital product passports are introduced to track the origin of materials and components, and to facilitate repairs and recycling. This will mean much more information being made available to consumers about both the products they are purchasing and their supply chains.

In conclusion

Over the course of this series of articles covering sustainability-related legislation, it has become clear that the demands being placed upon businesses in this regard is only going to increase. This could be due to directly falling under the obligations of a particular pieces of legislation, or indirectly as larger organisations increasingly seek more detailed information from within their supply chains.

Pressure for more legislation will also continue to come from consumers, NGOs, lobbying groups and even organisations within the sector which want to operate on a level playing field. It is therefore imperative that all organisations within the footwear supply ­­chain take action to understand the requirements and minimise impacts of both their products and operations in order to be prepared for future legislation.

How can we help?

Please contact for support on identifying relevant sustainability-related legislation, or to understand the possible impacts of your products.

Publishing Data

This article was originally published on page 12 of the November 2023 issue of SATRA Bulletin.

Other articles from this issue ยป