FTC Proposes Revised "Green Guides"
October 6, 2010

The Federal Trade Commission today announced proposed revisions to its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims. Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the FTC, says the “Green Guides,” which were last revised in 1998, are designed to help businesses avoid making misleading environmental claims and that also helps consumers.

Mitchell Katz, in the FTC’s Office of Public Affairs, told USGNN.com™ that the Green Guides are not just for companies marketing to the final end user of the product, but also companies marketing to other companies that will be buying and using the products, such as a glass company marketing to a contract glazier.

FTC commissioner Julie Brill said there are several new components on environmental claims within the proposed revisions.

“When the guides were last revised many environmental claims we see in the market today didn’t even exist,” said Brill. “Our proposed guides address three of the most popular new types of claims.”

These three new claims are:

  • Made with renewable materials. According to the FTC’s proposal “marketers should qualify claims with specific information about the renewable material (what it is; how it is sourced; why it is renewable), and should qualify renewable materials claims if the item is not made entirely with renewable materials (excluding minor, incidental components);
  • Made with renewable energy: The FTC says marketers should not make unqualified renewable energy claims if the power used to manufacture any part of the product was derived from fossil fuels. They should also qualify claims by specifying the source of renewable energy (e.g., wind or solar). Additionally, marketers should qualify claims if less than all, or virtually all, of the significant manufacturing processes involved in making the product/package were powered with renewable energy or conventional energy offset by renewable energy certificates (RECs). In addition, marketers that generate renewable energy (e.g., by using solar panels), but sell RECs for all of the renewable energy they generate, should not represent that they use renewable energy; and
  • Carbon offsets: According to the FTC, marketers should have competent and reliable scientific evidence to support their carbon offset claims, including using appropriate accounting methods to ensure they are properly quantifying emission reductions and are not selling those reductions more than once. Marketers should disclose if the offset purchase funds emission reductions will not occur for two years or longer and they should not advertise a carbon offset if the activity that forms the basis of the offset is already required by law

The FTC is accepting public comments on the proposed changes until December 10, 2010, after which it will decide which changes to make final. Comments can be submitted in paper form by following the instructions in the Request for Comment section of the Federal Register notice as well as electronically.

A summary of the proposed revised guides is available on the FTC’s website.

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