FTC Reviews Environmental Marketing Guides, Announces Public Meetings

First Workshop is January 8, 2008 on Carbon Offsets and Renewable Energy Certificates

For Your Information

The Federal Trade Commission is beginning a regulatory review of its environmental marketing guidelines, also known as the Green Guides. The guides outline general principles for all environmental marketing claims and provide specifics about certain green claims, such as degradabilty, compostability, recyclability, recycled content, and ozone safety. In a Federal Register Notice, the Commission is requesting comments on the guides, including standard questions about costs, benefits, and effectiveness of the guides, and questions on specific topics, including “sustainable” and “renewable” claims. While the review was scheduled to begin in 2009, because of the current increase in green advertising claims, the Commission is reviewing the guides at this time to ensure they reflect today’s marketplace. The guides were last updated in 1998.

As part of the Green Guides review, the FTC will be holding public meetings or workshops on a number of green marketing topics. The first workshop on January 8, 2008, will address the marketing of carbon offsets and renewable energy certificates (RECs) as detailed in a separate Federal Register Notice published concurrently with the Notice announced above. Carbon offsets fund projects designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in one place in order to counterbalance or “offset” emissions that occur elsewhere. For example, a carbon offset provider might use offset proceeds to pay for landfill methane collection activities or tree planting in an effort to reduce greenhouse gasses. RECs are created when renewable power generators sell their electricity as conventional electricity, and then sell the environmental attributes of their power separately through a certificate. For example, consumers may purchase conventional electricity from their utility, and then separately purchase RECs to subsidize renewable energy elsewhere. Through the workshop and related public comments, FTC staff will explore advertising claims related to these products, as well as issues of consumer perception, substantiation, and self-regulation. The workshop will take place on January 8, 2008 from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the FTC’s Conference Center at 601 New Jersey Ave NW, in Washington, DC.

The initial comment period on the Green Guides will be open until February 11, 2008. Additionally, the Commission will open a separate comment period for each public meeting. Thus, for the carbon offset workshop on January 8, the public may file comments until January 25, 2008. Details about the future public meetings will be announced at a later date. Copies of both Federal Register Notices can be found on the FTC’s Web site. For more information about the general guideline review, staff contacts are Janice Podoll Frankle (202) 326-3022 and Laura Koss (202) 326-2890. For more information about the Carbon Offset and REC workshop, the staff contact is Hampton Newsome (202) 326-2889.

The Commission votes to approve the publication of the Federal Register notices were both 5-0.

Copies of the documents mentioned in this release are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. Call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP.

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