The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is seeking feedback on its environmental advertising guidelines, known as the “Green Guides,” to help companies avoid misleading environmental claims about their products, services, and processes. As the FTC’s request pertains to international laws, regulations, or standards with respect to environmental marketing claims, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) encourages relevant stakeholders to respond by the FTC deadline on February 21, 2023.
A 2022 IBM sustainability report revealed that 3 out of 5 consumers indicated socially responsible or sustainable products made up at least half of their last purchase. As consumer interest in buying environmentally friendly products surges, companies continue to shift goals to deliver sustainability-focused products. To support trustworthy environmental claims, the FTC first issued its “Green Guides” in 1992, with the mission to help marketers avoid making environmental marketing claims that are unfair or deceptive, under Section 5 of the FTC Act that prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.”
The “Green Guides”—most recently revised in 2012—provide guidance on environmental marketing claims, including how consumers are likely to interpret particular claims and how marketers can substantiate these claims to avoid deceiving consumers.
As noted in the Federal Register, since the 2012 revision, increased attention to environmental concerns, including climate change and issues driven by the COVID-19 public health crisis, have likely encouraged continued environmental claims related to various products, packaging, services, and manufacturing processes.
The FTC will address carbon offsets and climate change guidance, the terms “recyclable and recycled content,” and assess the need for additional guidance.
Additionally, the commission seeks to address whether there are international laws, regulations, or standards with respect to environmental marketing claims it should consider as the FTC reviews “the Guides.” The FTC asks: “Should the Guides be modified to harmonize with these international laws, regulations, or standards? If so, why, and how? If not, why not?”.
“Consumers are increasingly conscious of how the products they buy affect the environment, and depend on marketers’ environmental claims to be truthful,” said Bureau of Consumer Protection director Samuel Levine. “We look forward to this review process, and will make any updates necessary to ensure the Green Guides provide current, accurate information about consumer perception of environmental benefit claims. This will both help marketers make truthful claims and consumers find the products they seek.”