January 13, 2023
By Krystal Spickler, program manager, Supply Chain team, UL Solutions
On Dec. 20, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published a request for public comment on the Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (“Green Guides” 16 CFR part 260) in the Federal Register.
The Green Guides were first published by the FTC in 1992 and have been revised several times. The current version was last updated in 2012. They provide a framework for businesses to comply with section 5 of FTC Act, which prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce” with a specific scope on environmental claims and advertising. The Guides provide detail on how consumers are likely to interpret a given claim, substantiation required, and examples of how a claim can be properly qualified.
FTC is requesting comment on both general and specific issues. General topics include the necessity of the guides, economic impact to organizations and consumers, current industry compliance, and how they encourage proper claim usage. Also being accepted is feedback on whether additional rulemaking is needed and information on federal, state, local, or international requirements which may overlap or have value in consideration.
The Commission is also requesting comment on specific issues, many of which have grown in interest since the Green Guides were last updated. These include:
- Carbon Offsets and Climate Change (16 CFR 260.5)
- Compostable (16 CFR 260.7)
- Degradable (16 CFR 260.8)
- Ozone-Safe/Ozone-Friendly (16 CFR 260.11)
- Recyclable (16 CFR 260.12)
- Recycled Content (16 CFR 260.13)
- Energy Use/Energy Efficiency
Specific questions are posed regarding existing consumer understanding, need for modification or elaboration to current guidance and new claims to be considered. One notable topic is on recyclability claims. The current version of the Guides permits an ‘unqualified’ recyclable claim to be made if recycling facilities are available to 60% of consumers or communities in which the item is sold. Feedback is solicited on whether the 60% threshold should be updated, as well as if revisions are needed to address instances where items are collected for a majority of consumers or communities but ultimately not recycled.
Potential changes are important to industry, as the Guides can serve as grounds for enforcement action brought by the FTC or state attorney generals against companies or marketers. Deviations can bring allegations of deceptive action as defined in the FTC Act.
Comments must be submitted by Feb. 21, 2023. Parties who would like to provide feedback may do so by filing comments online or by paper mail. Full instructions are outlined in the Federal Register update.