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Federal Trade Commission to seek comments on Proposed Updates to its “Green Guides”

Eric Boyd Paul Sonderegger December 15, 2022

On December 14, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) announced that it will be seeking comment on potential updates to its guidance on environmental marketing claims known as the “Green Guides.” [1] A draft of a Federal Register Notice was also placed on the FTC’s website.[2]  

The Green Guides, located at 16 CFR Part 260, provide a safe haven for companies so that environmental claims that they make about their policies, products, packaging or services are not considered unfair or deceptive under Section 5 of the FTC Act. The Green Guides outline general principles applicable to all environmental marketing claims and specific guidance on common environmental claims. The Green Guides explain that environmental claims must be true, qualified if necessary, not overly broad, substantiated, and clear. The Green Guides were first issued in 1992 and then were updated in 1996, 1998, and 2012.   

In 2023, the FTC will be seeking general and specific comments about the Green Guides. The FTC has asked the public to respond to 19 general questions about the efficacy and continued viability of the Green Guides. In addition, the FTC will be seeking input from the public on several specific subjects, including whether:

  • Additional information is necessary on “carbon offset” and “climate change” claims;
  • Additional guidance is necessary with respect to “sustainable”, “compostable” and “degradable” claims;
  • To update the guidance on “ozone safe/friendly claims” to be consistent with recent EPA regulations;
  • Claims about recyclability are misleading under the current “substantial majority” test or when materials are subject to a recycling program but not ultimately recycled;
  • Additional information on “recycled content” claims is necessary, and in particular claims related to pre- and post- consumer recycled content;
  • To add guidance on “energy use” or “energy efficiency” claims; and
  • To add guidance on “organic” claims for non-agricultural products.   

Some examples of recent FTC unfair or deceptive claims involve whether products made from bamboo are “eco-friendly”, “biodegradable”, “sustainable”, or “compostable.”  

Thompson Coburn’s environmental group has assisted clients to evaluate such claims as well as a wide variety of other environmental marketing claims, including but not limited to renewability, compostability, recyclability, recycled content, carbon offsets and climate change, and free-of claims.

The FTC expects that the Federal Register Notice comment period will be published in mid-January 2023 and that comments will be accepted thereafter. The public will have sixty (60) days to provide comments during the comment period.  

If you have questions regarding this article or the FTC Green Guides, please contact Eric Boyd or Paul Sonderegger in Thompson Coburn’s environmental practice area.

[1] FTC Seeks Public Comment on Potential Updates to its ‘Green Guides’ for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims | Federal Trade Commission 

[2] 16 CFR Part 260: Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims | Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov)