Admit it. You want to be green. Everyone’s doing it, and the most successful, forward-thinking companies, are making money at it. And admit this also. You know you’ve thought about throwing some green claims on a piece of literature, whether or not you’ve had the time to develop or complete a well-thought out environmental policy for your company and its products. I hope you haven’t thrown around certain green claims without having the supporting evidence to back it up. It’s tempting to do so, though. After all, who’s watching, who’s going to challenge your statements? Well, the answer is many people, from consumers and their lawyers to even the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

I learned this week that in January the FTC launched a series of public workshops being held as part of the agency’s regulatory review of the “Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims,” commonly known as the Green Guides. The first workshop addressed the marketing of carbon offsets and renewable energy certificates.

The second, held April 30 in Washington, D.C., examined developments in green packaging claims and the consumer perception of such claims.

Additionally, the guides were slated to be updated every ten years, but the review period was moved up a year because of all the green activity. Many topics simply are not covered currently, so the FTC is taking public comment now.

According to the FTC, “Since the Green Guides were last revised in 1998, there has been a significant increase in the use of environmental claims in product marketing, including ‘green’ claims concerning product packaging. Sellers and marketers frequently use terms addressed in the Green Guides, such as ‘recyclable,’ ‘recycled content,’ ‘biodegradable,’ ‘degradable,’ ‘compostable’ or ‘refillable,’ to claim that their packaging is green. Sellers and marketers also are now using green claims that are not addressed currently in the Green Guides, including terms such as “sustainable” and “renewable.” When such claims are used to sell products, consumer perception and substantiation issues may arise. Also, in recent years, there has been an increase in the use of environmental seals and third-party certification programs purporting to verify the positive environmental impact of product packaging. Consumers may have varying interpretations of such seals and programs.”

I’ve heard several people in the industry comment about the plethora of green claims being made and ask how you prove what claims are true, etc. I’m happy to see there is some concrete information out there helping companies find their way on the path to green. I encourage each company to go to http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/grnrule/guides980427.htm
to read these guides, and to check the site periodically for the updated versions as well as upcoming workshops.

Also, look to the June issue of DWM magazine for a column by Arlene Stewart of AZS Consulting regarding this very issue, and the implications she believes this will have on the fenestration industry.

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