There have been major shifts in consumer expectations and stakeholder commitments around environmental marketing claims, according to a release from Consumer Brands Association, making a regulatory review of the Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, known as the “Green Guides,” necessary.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) last month said it will review the Green Guides, and the Consumer Brands Association has offered its support. The review will be the first update in a decade.
According to the FTC, American consumers look for environmentally friendly, “green” products—from recycled paper to biodegradable trash bags. “Companies have responded with ‘green’ marketing touting the environmental benefits of what they’re selling. But sometimes what companies think their green claims mean and what consumers really understand are two different things,” the agency said. The Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides “are designed to help marketers avoid making environmental claims that mislead consumers.”
“While the Guides have proved useful, Consumer Brands believes that it is crucial that the Guides be updated comprehensively in a way that speaks to current marketplace dynamics with actionable guidelines,” Joseph Aquilina, senior director and associate general counsel for Consumer Brands said in Consumer Brands’ comments to the FTC.
Data from a recent CBA survey showed 75% of consumers want to buy products that have recyclable packaging, and another 75% want their products to have packaging made from recycled material, according to John Hewitt, VP of packaging sustainability, Consumer Brands. “This demonstrates increasing consumer desire to purchase sustainable products,” he said.
However, common terms, such as "sustainable," for example, aren’t mentioned in the Green Guides, Hewitt told WGB, “showing that the existing guidelines from 2012 are no longer sufficient for current use.”
Another recent Consumer Brands poll showed that 72% of respondents said recycling rules should be the same across the country and 70% said having nearly 10,000 sets of recycling rules is hurting recycling rates. The Green Guides were designed to help avoid consumer confusion from misleading environmental marketing claims and help provide actionable insights to industry.
“Revising the Guides based on the changes to consumer expectations and stakeholder commitments around environmental claims that have emerged in the past decade will help ensure consumers, industry and environment are better served,” Aquilina said.
Updating the guides will provide more certainty for companies and improve consumer understanding of environmental marketing claims.
“Consumer Brands plans to submit comments during the Green Guides update process that will identify key aspects to better meet consumer expectations that have emerged in the decade since the last update,” said Hewitt.
The Green Guides were first issued in 1992, then revised in 1996, 1998 and 2012. The guidance they provide, according to FTC, includes: 1) general principles that apply to all environmental marketing claims; 2) how consumers are likely to interpret particular claims and how marketers can substantiate these claims; and 3) how marketers can qualify their claims to avoid deceiving consumers.
“We’re pleased the Commission is taking action to provide much needed clarity for consumers and regulatory certainty for industry through long awaited updates to the Guides,” said Aquilina.
“Consumer Brands is committed to assisting the FTC in its efforts to update the Green Guides and believes there will be substantial value for all concerned by the Commission undertaking this review,” he said.
“CPG companies have long led the charge on sustainability by prioritizing efforts to meet increased consumer demand for sustainable products and packaging. We are pleased the FTC has initiated an update to the Green Guides,” said Hewitt. “Consumer Brands supports modernizing FTC’s guidelines to provide greater clarity surrounding environmental marketing claims.”