FIGHT GREENWASHING: Tell The FTC To Update The Green Guides

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“Greenwashing,” a play on “whitewashing,” is a term used to imply the use of misleading information to promote a product’s social or environmental benefits.  Greenwashed claims are often unsubstantiated and can mislead consumers. Sometimes these claims are only partially true or the purported benefit is actually worse than the alternative.

The danger of greenwashing is that it can lead conscientious consumers, who want to purchase sustainable products, to do the opposite. They may unintentionally contribute to the environmental issues they seek to solve.

But there is a way to fight against greenwashing!

The Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Green Guides have been a valuable resource for brands, marketers, retailers, and consumers since they were first issued in 1992. These Guides, “outline general principles that apply to all environmental marketing claims and provide guidance regarding many specific environmental benefit claims…[and]…explain how reasonable consumers likely interpret each such claim, describe the basic elements necessary to substantiate it, and present options for qualifying it to avoid deception.”1 For businesses, they provide practical advice and examples on how to accurately and responsibly make environmental claims on products without being deceptive. There is also benefit for consumers who increasingly want to align their values with their shopping behavior. However, the Guides have not been updated since 2012. We urge the FTC to update the Green Guides and help end blatant greenwashing.

In addition to a review of the existing guidance, consideration should be given to examining the use of words such as “sustainability” and “organic” in marketing claims. When the Guides were last reviewed in 2012, the FTC decided not to take action on the usage of these words. In the past nine years, there has been an exponential growth in sustainability claims by businesses. But, without guardrails on these terms, or data to substantiate these claims, there is risk that using these terms in marketing will becomes meaningless, or even detrimental to efforts to promote healthy environmental practices.

By updating the Green Guides it would make it harder for brands to overexaggerate or lie about their products environmental benefits. It would also level the playing field for those brands who are genuinely committed to environmental practices.

With a new Administration and Congress, the time is right for the FTC to undertake a comprehensive review of the Green Guides.

Join PoliticallyInFashion and AMENDI in signing this petition to urge the FTC to update the Green Guides and help fight against greenwashing!

1 https://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/attachments/press-releases/ftc-issuesrevisedgreenguides/greenguidesstatement.pdf