May 6, 2021
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
Telephone: (202) 326-2222
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s Green Guides have been a valuable resource for brands, marketers, retailers, and consumers since they were first issued in 1996. These Guides, “outline general principles that apply to all environmental marketing claims and provide guidance regarding many specific environmental benefit claims…[and]…explain how reasonable consumers likely interpret each such claim, describe the basic elements necessary to substantiate it, and present options for qualifying it to avoid deception.” For businesses, they provide practical advice and examples on how to accurately and responsibly make environmental claims on products without being deceptive. There is also benefit for consumers who increasingly want to align their values with their shopping behavior. However, the Guides have not been updated since 2012. We write to urge the FTC to undertake a comprehensive review of the Green Guides.
Much has changed in technology and consumer awareness in these past nine years since the updated Guides were released in 2012. Due to the rise in the use of smartphones to access websites and utilize QR codes when shopping in brick and mortar stores, and a pandemic-fueled increase in online shopping, consumers are accustomed to looking for detailed information on the environmental claims made by the brands they are shopping. The information consumers seek must be truthful, reasonable, and useful to the average consumer.
In addition to a review of the existing guidance, consideration should be given to examining the use of words such as “sustainability” and “organic” in marketing claims. When the Guides were last reviewed in 2012, the FTC decided not to act in these areas. In the past nine years, there has been an exponential growth in sustainability claims by businesses. But, without guardrails on this term, or data to substantiate these claims, there is risk the term becomes meaningless, or even detrimental to efforts to promote healthy environmental practices.
The United States is not alone in promulgating rules on fair and safe environmental claims. In the UK, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is tasked with ensuring advertisers do not engage in “greenwashing”, or making unsubstantiated or broad environmental claims. And the European Union is advancing the Sustainable Products Initiative which seeks to improve customer communication on sustainability through mandated labeling and other practices.
We do not presuppose the outcome of an FTC review. We look forward to a robust debate and discussion amongst all stakeholders - brands, advocacy organizations, scientific and policy experts, and importantly, consumers.
With a new Administration and Congress, the time is right for the FTC to undertake a comprehensive review of the Green Guides with the full participation of businesses and consumers.
We, the undersigned, stand ready to work with you on this timely and critical undertaking.
Amendi * ASKET * TIDAL * Reformation * Jewelers Vigilance Committee * The Conservatory, Founder, Brian Bolke * Mimi Prober * Wearable Collections * Secteur 6, Amit Hooda, Co-founder and CEO * Senza Tempo Fashion, Kristen Fanarakis, Founder * Hudson Hemp/Our Treaty * Thousand Fell * The New Standard Institute * The OR Foundation * Fashion Revolution, Founder, Orsola de
Castro * Conscious Fashion Campaign * PoliticallyInFashion* Circular Services Group * Sustainable Brooklyn * Fashion Mingle * The Center for the Advancement of Garment Making, Founder, Caroline Priebe * Fashion Engineering LLC * Swap Society * Chicago Fair Trade * The co-lab * New York University Stern School of Business Social Impact and Sustainability
Association (SISA) * Elizabeth Cline, Journalist and Author * Dana Thomas, Journalist and Author * Liz Segran, Journalist and Author * Nick Wooster, Fashion Consultant * Thomasine Dolan Dow, Independent Sustainability Consultant * Flora Gil, Design Consultant * Tabea Soriano, Sustainability and
Strategy Consultant * Malinda Salter, Salter Textile Consulting * Garik Himebaugh, Founder, Eco-Stylist.com * Haley Lieberman, CEO and Founder, Shop Tomorrows * Eleanor Turner, Founder, The Big Favorite * Aditi Mayer, Journalist and Activist
They are a resource to help businesses avoid making deceptive environmental claims. The Guides were originally created in 1992 by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), an agency empowered by federal law to prohibit unfair or deceptive acts in business. They are to assist businesses in making lawful environmental marketing claims and the public in understanding and appreciating these statements. The FTC can bring an enforcement action if they see an environmental claim that is inconsistent with the Guides, unfair and deceptive.
These Guides apply to marketers, manufacturers, auditors, wholesale and retail sellers and is particularly impactful to the fashion industry and are for the benefit of all consumers.
Consumers increasingly want to align their values with their shopping behavior. Companies who are proud of their efforts to operate in an environmentally responsible manner want to be able to promote their endeavors. But, these statements must be truthful, reasonable, and useful to the average consumer. The Green Guides outline a dozen common environmental claims with examples of permissible statements.
*General Environmental Benefit Claims *Carbon Offsets *Certification and Seals of Approval *Compostable *Degradable *Free of Claims *Non-toxic claims *Ozone Safe and Ozone Friendly *Recyclable *Recycled Content *Renewable Energy Claims *Renewable Materials Claims
§ Marketers should not make broad, unqualified general environmental benefit claims like "green" or "eco-friendly." Broad claims are difficult to substantiate, if not impossible.
§ Marketers should qualify recyclable claims when recycling facilities are not available to at least 60 percent of the consumers or communities where a product is sold.
The Green Guides have not been updated since 2012. Much has changed in technology and consumer awareness in these past 9 years. With a new Administration and Congress, the time is right for the FTC to undergo a review of this critical document.
Contact Hilary@PoliticallyInFashion.com to learn more.
Businesses should review The Green Guides to see how they work for their companies. Where do they see need for improvement? Should the FTC look at Sustainability, Organic and Natural environmental claims? Has consumer understanding changed perception of claims? Could technology be utilized more effectively to substantiate environmental claims? The industry needs to tell their elected officials what works for their business and their customers. We are here to help you.
Check out the letter to the FTC asking them to update the Green Guides - a federal regulation designed to assist businesses in making lawful environmental marketing claims and the public in understanding and appreciating these statements. Contact Hilary@PoliticallyInFashion.com to learn more or sign on!