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THREADS Protocol Aims to Influence Effectiveness of Sustainability Legislation

Industry trade groups have developed a set of principles to guide effective policymaking surrounding people and planet.

The American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), the Accessories Council, The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), and the Responsible Business Coalition have come together to release the THREADS Sustainability and Social Responsibility Protocol, a framework for developing laws that impact the fashion sector.

On behalf of the thousands of brands and retail groups they represent, the groups aim to assist policymakers in ensuring that proposed policy intended to do good is actually actionable, applicable and effective. The acronym, which describes ideal sustainability legislation, stands for Transparently developed and enforced, Harmonized across jurisdictions and industries, Realistic timelines, Enforceable, Adjustable, Designed for success, and Science-based.

The tenets reflect the industry’s desire to see practical and precise science-based regulations that meaningfully address social and sustainability challenges. According to the trade groups, the creation of the THREADS Protocol represents their members’ commitment to working pre-competitively to improve global supply chains and production practices by coming together to help drive ethical and responsible standards.

Brands and retailers are already doing the work individually to make changes to their organizations, according to AAFA president and CEO Steve Lamar. “Members set and strengthen ESG priorities year over year and weigh in on proposed polices of all matters of importance,” he told Sourcing Journal.

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Now, “We’re at a critical juncture where policies must be smart, effective, and meet the tenets of THREADS to make a real, positive difference,” he added, as a means of “facilitating, amplifying, and accelerating the industry’s good work.”

“Our members are engaging in a constructive and meaningful way as legislative proposals roll out in 2023 and beyond,” Lamar said.

The THREADS Protocol applies to policies concerning worker rights, the environment, chemical management and other human impact matters connected to global fashion supply chains. One of the framework’s tenets—Harmonized across jurisdictions and industries—aims to address the longstanding issue of a lack of standardization across different districts and territories. Regulations, even if passed in identical format, can be interpreted and enforced unevenly, which the trade groups said leads to confusion as well as undermining the trust of the public. Addressing this issue head-on increases transparency, and the groups also believe that best regulatory practices could be shared across industries facing similar challenges.

“The involvement of local and national governments, as well as supranational bodies and international organizations, has the potential to build on industry initiatives related to key concerns, establish achievable benchmarks, and catalyze widespread progress,” the groups wrote on Monday.

“Policy proposals must account for the work industry, stakeholders, and governments at every level will need to undertake to achieve the desired outcomes if they are to be effective,” they added. “Enthusiasm for a desired outcome is not enough. Poorly designed policies divert resources away from successful or promising industry initiatives and instead create barriers to real progress on environmental and social issues affecting the industry.”