A blog from Charming dedicated to consumer preferences, retail, and technology


6 min read

How California's Senate Bills 343 and 707 Might Just Change the Face of Sustainability

Feb 26, 2024 3:26:12 PM

“Eco-conscious everything” is on the rise. Everyone from food companies to schools and apparel brands is clamoring to showcase their commitment to sustainability. But with that comes the use of recycled materials and eco-friendly packaging. And while apparel companies in particular are eager to align themselves with growing consumer demand for environmentally friendly products, they need to be careful of greenwashing and faulty claims that could backfire -- especially as two key senate Bills in California are pending.

Campaigns and pledges to save the planet are popping up everywhere -- but they have gaping holes. In reality, while many of these initiatives have good intentions, they sometimes end up as surface-level marketing gestures, masking deeper exposures and shortcuts that could have long-term repercussions. Being truly sustainable is no easy feat. Regulations are often treated as optional and the true cost of being compliant inadvertently gets sidelined. 

But alas, those days are numbered.

According to November 2023 report from McKinsey, entitled The State of Fashion 2024: Finding pockets of growth as uncertainty reigns:

“Sustainability rules. The era of fashion industry self-regulation is drawing to a close. Across jurisdictions, new rules will have significant effects on both consumers and fashion players. Brands and manufacturers may consider revamping business models to align with the changes ahead”

In this article, we dig into what the fashion industry faces as it struggles to embrace sustainability from a policy standpoint and how taking shortcuts and making compromises can undermine consumer trust and create supply chain chaos for years to come. 

From the toxic legacy of PFAS to microplastic pollution, it’s time to confront the inconvenient truth: taking regulations seriously is no longer a luxury. It’s imperative for the future and the viability of the apparel industry itself. The time is now for brands to move beyond greenwashing and make a genuine commitment to environmental stewardship—one that prioritizes transparency, accountability, and authenticity in its claims and frowns on the fast fashion frenzy.

In a world grappling with environmental challenges, California (maybe second to the EU), has prided itself on being at the forefront of progressive initiatives aimed at mitigating the impacts of the climate crisis. Two such recent endeavors are Senate Bills 343 and 707 proposed by CalRecycle, the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery. These bills mark a significant attempt at enhancing waste management practices and promoting a circular economy ethos within the state. But unless you’re a mom-and-pop brand outside of California, the new golden rule is that what happens in California is what has to happen all over the US -- and even beyond.

The Crux of Bill 343


Bill 343 is a legislative proposal that seeks to provide the “truth in labeling” to recycling symbols on many plastic and packaging products. The measure intends to ban the use of the iconic chasing-arrows symbol on products that are not truly recyclable. If passed, 343 will make recycling less confusing for consumers and eliminate incorrect materials from being placed in the blue recycling bin. This in turn will reduce contamination of recyclable materials, lower volumes of waste, and increase legitimate recycling rates.

Under Bill 343, a product or packaging may be deemed recyclable in California only if the product or packaging is of a material type and form that is both: 

  1. Collected for recycling by jurisdiction recycling programs that collectively encompass at least 60 percent of the population of the state and 
  2. Sorted into defined streams for recycling processes by large volume transfer/processing facilities, collectively serving at least 60 percent of recycling programs statewide.

But that’s not all. Meet California’s Senate Bill 707: the Responsible Textile Recovery Act.

With an aim at establishing an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program for textiles, SB 707 intends to require apparel manufacturers to implement and fund extended producer responsibility programs that would improve recycling and increase the reuse of textiles.

Key Provisions of the bill include:

  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR): This shifts the burden of responsibility for managing products at the end of their life cycle from local governments and taxpayers to the producers. This encourages manufacturers to design products with recycling and reuse in mind and fosters innovation in sustainable packaging and materials.
  • Stewardship: The bill requires producers (either independently or through the creation of stewardship organizations), to establish a governance program for the collection and recycling of textiles.
  • Fines and Penalties: The bill proposes that administrative civil penalties are imposed for violations, not to exceed $10,000 per day, or not to exceed $50,000 per day for an international company.
  • Education and Outreach: To ensure successful implementation the bill allocates resources for education and outreach programs aimed at raising awareness about waste reduction, recycling best practices, and the importance of a circular economy. 

Potential Impact

As they say, the only thing that’s a constant is change. As the apparel industry faces more stringent sustainability mandates, if your brand is operating in the US, your best bet will be to stay on top of California's approach to waste management and recycling. And if you have plans to take your brand global -- or it already is -- adhering to EU and California regulations will become the law.

Best Practices

As new criteria evolve, it’s no secret that implementation will be tricky and may face resistance due to budgeting and organizational constraints. However, from our experience, the most savvy brands that are embracing a more circular future, follow these best practices to get it right:

  • Don’t approach coming new requirements as obstacles – but more opportunities that will assist your company stay in compliance and simultaneously meet growing consumer demands
  • Ensure the C-suite of your organization is brought into the sustainability mandates and understand that shortcuts can lead to fines and skyrocketing operational costs to retroactively meet requirements.
  • Create an internal task force that usually consists of cross-departmental stakeholders from compliance, sourcing, legal, and marketing. This allows for better transparency, budgeting, and accountability across your organization. 
  • Invite your partners along for the ride to be part of this task force, especially those who supply your trim and packaging materials -- and make sure they are up to speed on the constantly changing landscape of sustainability mandates.
  • Given the resource allocation needed to do this at scale, make sure your marketing tells the story of what’s going into products and their package. For example, leveraging a digital passport solution allows you to use familiar technologies like QR codes and NFC tags, to deliver video-based compliance data about your product directly to consumers without the need for costly hang tags or production. Best of all, as mandates change your product videos can be changed on the fly.

Let’s be honest: being truly sustainable is no easy feat. While it’s s a worthy and increasingly important goal – be careful of the details – and make sure that you are *actually* doing what you claim. Our advice: keep your legal, marketing, and logistics teams informed.

As your brand navigates the ever-evolving landscape of sustainability, Charming is here to help. With over a decade-plus of providing certified sustainable products, we know the ins and outs of the apparel industry regulations, making it our mission to stay abreast of every update. If you’d like an assessment of your current situation or have general questions, please reach out to your Charming contact or request a complimentary sustainability consultation.