Policies & Issues

The FTC Wants Your Input on Revising Its ‘Green Guides’

Policies & IssuesJan 05, 2023

The FTC Wants Your Input on Revising Its ‘Green Guides’

Created to regulate environmental marketing claims and combat “greenwashing,” the guides are being updated for the first time since 2012.

From now through Feb. 21, the Federal Trade Commission’s Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, a.k.a. the “Green Guides,” are open for public comment. The commission is looking for input on terms like “recycled,” “sustainable,” and “energy efficient.”
Washington, D.C.—The Federal Trade Commission is currently seeking public comment on potential changes to its “Green Guides,” the set of guidelines that outline what companies can and can’t say when making claims in their marketing about how “eco-friendly” they are. 
First issued in 1992 and revised three times since—in 1996, 1998, and 2012—the Green Guides, like the recently revised Jewelry Guides, provide companies with guidelines for using certain terms in their marketing, such as “recycled content,” “renewable energy,” and “carbon offsets.” 
They also outline how consumers are likely to interpret such claims and how marketers can back them up.  
The commission is revising the Green Guides now because of increasing consumer interest in buying environmentally friendly products and the increasing amount of so-called greenwashing—the practice of using unsubstantiated claims in marketing to make a company or product seem more “environmentally friendly” than it actually is.  
“Walk down the aisle at any major store—you’re likely to see packages trumpeting [businesses’] low carbon footprint, their energy efficiency, or their quote-unquote ‘sustainability,’” FTC Chair Lina Khan said. 
“For the average consumer, it’s impossible to verify these claims. People who want to buy green products generally have to trust what it says on the box. That’s why it’s so important for companies making these claims to tell the truth. If they don’t, it distorts the market for environmentally friendly products. It puts honest companies, who bear the costs of green business practices, at a competitive disadvantage.”
 Related stories will be right here … 
The commission voted 4-0 on Dec. 14 to open the public comment period on the Green Guides. It will remain open through Feb. 21. 
Comments can be submitted via the Federal Register while a PDF of the current Green Guides is available here.

The FTC said it is asking for general comments on the continuing need for the guides as well their economic impact and effect on the accuracy of companies’ environmental claims.  
It also wants to hear from consumers about how they perceive environmental claims, including any that aren’t currently in the guides. 
The FTC said it expects to get a lot of comments on carbon offsets and climate change and the use of words including “recyclable,” “recycled content,” and “sustainable,” as well as terms used regarding energy use and energy efficiency.

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