It’s been decades since the Federal Trade Commission advised companies on how – legally – to speak out about eco-marketing claims.
First introduced in 1992, “Green Guides” were designed to help companies make legal environmental marketing claims while helping the public distinguish green from chatter. And there’s a major gray area, because the FTC deliberately decided not to follow “sustainability” or “organic” guidelines in its green guides to avoid overlap with the National Organic Program’s organic food guides. United States Department of Agriculture. This means fashion is largely in the dark – the guides haven’t been updated since 2012.
At a public committee meeting on Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission voted unanimously to review the green guides. This means that the FTC will seek public comment as part of its standard review process, in order to update the guides.
Misleading claims can “distort” the market and hurt honest businesses, as FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan said during the live meeting.
Members of the public approached the Commission ahead of the vote, calling for a review of the guides. These groups included the American Chemistry Council, a national trade association that involves the largest plastic packaging stakeholders, as well as apparel trade groups like the American Apparel and Footwear Association, or AAFA, as well as the advocacy organization Politically In Fashion.
Chelsea Murtha, director of sustainability at AAFA (which represents some 1,000 brands), voted to begin regulatory review of green guides saying modernity demands it.
“The sustainability landscape has changed significantly since 2012…Consumers are increasingly skeptical of environmental claims. It would benefit both consumers and businesses to have strong guidelines on greenwashing,” Murtha said.
“The launch of the FTC’s Green Guides Review is one that many stakeholders have been eagerly anticipating given the proliferation and growing importance of green marketing to consumers and marketers. As with the last review, I expect this proceeding to be a robust process that will focus on changing consumer perception of environmental marketing claims,” Laura Kim, Covington & Burling LLP, told WWD. . She was one of the authors of the Green Guides during her tenure as chief of staff at the FTC’s Consumer Protection Bureau.
Last year, more than 40 industry members advocated for updates to the Green Guides, in part led by groups like Politically in Fashion.
“This information sought by consumers must be truthful, reasonable and useful to the average consumer,” reiterated Politically in Fashion founder Hilary Jochmans. She hopes for a “timely” review period.
For the FTC, review processes typically remain open for at least 30 days (or longer once released). Additional review periods (10 to 30 days or more) may be required after feedback has been reviewed.