FTC Announces Workshop on Green Guides and Packaging

Next Public Workshop in Series Scheduled for April 30, 2008, in Washington, DC

For Release

The Federal Trade Commission today announced the second in 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 workshop, which is free and open to the public, will be held in Washington, DC, on April 30, 2008, to examine developments in green packaging claims and the consumer perception of such claims. The Commission’s first Green Guides workshop, held in January, examined issues including the marketing of carbon offsets and renewable energy certificates.

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 currently addressed 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.

The “Green Guides and Packaging” workshop will provide a forum for the discussion of topics such as: 1) trends in packaging and the resulting environmental packaging claims; 2) packaging terms currently covered by the Green Guides and whether the perception of these terms has changed over the past decade; 3) new green packaging terms not currently addressed in the Green Guides; 4) claims based on third-party certification and consumer perception of such claims; 5) the impact of scientific and technological changes, including the use of new packaging materials and their impact on the environment; 6) the current state of substantiation for green packaging claims; and 7) the need for new or updated FTC guidance in these areas.

Logistics

The “Green Guides and Packaging” workshop will be held from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the FTC’s satellite building conference center, located at 601 New Jersey Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC. A government-issued photo ID is required for entry. Pre-registration is not required. Members of the public and press who cannot attend can view a live Webcast of the workshop on the FTC’s Web site.

Reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities are available upon request. Requests for such accommodations should be submitted via e-mail to mbaskin@ftc.gov or by calling Marcy Baskin at 202-326-2285. Such requests should include a detailed description of the accommodations needed and a way to contact you if we need more information. Please provide advance notice.

For more information on the April workshop, including the Federal Register notice, how to file comments, directions to the conference center, and other relevant information, please visit: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/workshops/packaging/index.shtml. Comments to inform discussion at the workshop must be received by April 11, 2008. All comments in response to the Federal Register Notice must be submitted no later than May 19, 2008. The Commission vote approving issuance of the Federal Register notice announcing the workshop and soliciting electronic and written comments was 5-0.

The FTC’s Green Guides Review

The Green Guides outline general principles for all environmental marketing claims and provide specific guidance about certain green claims. In a Federal Register notice issued in November 2007, the Commission solicited comments relating to its regulatory review of the Green Guides, including responses to standard questions about costs, benefits, and effectiveness of the Green Guides, and on specific topics, including “sustainable” and “renewable” claims.

As part of the Green Guides review, the FTC is holding a series of workshops on a number of green marketing topics. The first workshop on January 8, 2008, addressed the marketing of carbon offsets and renewable energy certificates. While the review of the Green Guides was scheduled to begin in 2009, because of the current increase in green advertising claims, the Commission began the review a year early to ensure they reflect today’s marketplace.

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, click: http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/complaint.shtm or call 1-877-382-4357. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,600 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. For free information on a variety of consumer topics, click http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/consumer.shtm.

Contact Information

MEDIA CONTACT:
Mitchell J. Katz,
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-2161
STAFF CONTACTS:
Janice Podoll Frankle
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3022

Laura Koss
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326 -2890

Anne McCormick
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3583