Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims #536013-00037

Submission Number:
536013-00037
Commenter:
Lynn Preston
Organization:
Tandus
State:
GA
Initiative Name:
Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims
C. Green Building Claims 1. How effective have the Guides????????? provisions regarding general environmental claims been in preventing consumer deception and providing business guidance with respect to environmental claims for building products? Tandus feels that the Guides adequately address important, mainstream issues and are well thought-out, well written, clear and concise. Specific examples further add clarity to items that are addressed. Although the purpose of the Guides is to help prevent consumer deception, we do not feel that all companies follow the Guides when making environmental marketing claims. We believe that many claims are unsubstantiated. Consumers have a right to accurately assess the attributes of the product they are purchasing. The Guides help them in making well-informed product choices. Tandus feels that more enforcement of the Guides is critical so that inaccurate, misleading claims are identified and can be corrected. Businesses benefit from the Guides because, if followed, they help maintain fair competition and truthful advertising. Companies should be required to have accurate data to back up product claims. Research, testing and/or third-party verification to substantiate a claim should be required. The cost to obtain such data should not be excessive and should be a part of doing business. The Guides as written should remain essentially the same but they should be up- dated to encompass new terminology and technologies as they are introduced in the marketplace. D. Third Party Certifications and Seals 1. How effective have the Guides????????? provisions regarding third-party certifications and seals been in preventing consumer deception and providing business guidance with respect to environmental claims for textiles, building products or buildings? Tandus feels that third-party certification is essential in ensuring truth in advertising in today?????????s marketplace. When customers are choosing products, independent, third party verification and certification provides extra credibility and assurance that the manufacturers????????? claims are truthful and accurate. Companies should be required to have accurate data to back up product claims. E. Green Building and Textiles Claims Currently Not Addressed by the Green Guides 1. Should the guides be revised to include guidance regarding ?????????sustainable????????? or renewable claims for textiles and building products? If so, why and what guidance should be provided? If not, why not? The word sustainable is somewhat vague and overused. It means different things to different people. It is often inappropriately used in advertising, for example, some manufacturers call their products ?????????sustainable.????????? Although possible, we do not believe that any current product is entirely sustainable (meaning no net environmental impact). However, we feel the term used in the wrong context can be misleading. Use of the term should be discouraged unless it can be clearly defined by the FTC. The Guides currently require that a claim that a product is ?????????sustainable????????? must be accompanied by a specific reason the claim is made. This should be amplified. The Guides should also define "renewable" material and list materials that are considered renewable. Also the term rapidly renewable should be defined as well as the time frame for replenishment. Other terms that should be defined include ?????????biobased,????????? ?????????natural,????????? and ?????????organic????????? and examples should be provided. 1 (c). Is there appropriate scientific methodology to evaluate life cycle claims for building products? If so please provide any evidence that supports your answer. A life cycle analysis per ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 guidelines performed by a qualified expert can be used to determine environmental impacts from a products????????? life cycle. An accepted LCA method could be used, such as, TRACI (Tool for the Reduction and Assessment of Chemical and other environmental Impacts). It is a set of state-of-the-art, peer reviewed U.S. life cycle impact assessment methods developed by the US EPA Office of Research and Development. TRACI is utilized in the BEES 4.0 LCA software developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). [BEES 4.0 can be downloaded at http://www.epa.gov/opptintr/epp/tools/bees.htm] (3) Other Environmental Claims Should the Guides be revised to include guidance regarding renewable energy and carbon offset claims? If so, why and what guidance should be provided? If not, why not? What evidence supports making your proposed revisions? What evidence is available concerning consumers understanding of the terms ?????????renewable energy????????? and ?????????carbon offset?????????? Tandus does not feel that all consumers have a clear understanding of terms, such as, ?????????renewable energy,????????? ?????????carbon offsets,????????? ?????????carbon credits,????????? ?????????greenhouse gases,????????? ?????????renewable energy certificates,????????? ?????????carbon sequestration????????? and ?????????carbon neutral.????????? This is a new area where environmental claims are being made and guidance from the FTC would be beneficial. The fast growing arena of purchasing and selling renewable energy certificates and carbon offsets is not yet well regulated. This area could benefit from standards development and stricter adherence to standards. Consumers should be better informed when purchasing renewable energy certificates or carbon offsets. Carbon offsets should be permanent, clearly demonstrate ?????????additionality,????????? avoid double counting and accurately account for project emission reductions. ?????????Additionality????????? ensures that offset credits are only given to projects that would not have happened otherwise. It ensures that a project reduces emissions more than would have occurred in the absence of the project. For example, if a company owned a track of land bearing trees, the carbon sequestered from the trees should not be counted since the project would have happened anyway. Double counting emission reductions means having multiple stakeholders take credit for them. Offset companies must retire their offsets once they sell them and offsets should only be sold once. Standards set criteria by which projects are chosen and evaluated. For example, the goal of the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) is to provide a certification tool that is designed to give users confidence that voluntary project-based GHG emission reductions are real, measurable, permanent, additional and independently verified. However, standards alone cannot ensure the quality of a project. It is only through implementation and verification of these standards that projects can be reliably evaluated. Verification consists of the periodic monitoring and review of ongoing projects in addition to an evaluation after the project period has ended. Monitoring ensures that the project is meeting its goals and is operating properly and end of project verification ensures that carbon emissions have been reduced by the amount intended. Claims of ?????????carbon neutral????????? companies, products and services have begun appearing in the marketplace. A definition and expansion of this concept in the Guides would be beneficial. Tandus feels that accurate data is needed to make such a claim and third party verification should be part of this process. An accurate accounting of the greenhouse gases associated with a company, product or service is required as well as verification that the amount of offsets purchased adequately covers the associated greenhouse gases